When 18-month-old Adhiraj Chadha developed a runny nose and fever five days ago, his mother Deepa hoped it was yet another viral infection that would go away on its own. When the fever stayed over 102 F for over three days, the worried mother visited a paediatrician at Apollo Hospital.
“It was a viral infection but a very potent one. Adhi cried a lot and stopped eating, losing almost 1.5 kg within three days, which is a lot given he weighed 13 kg five days ago. I usually don’t rush to a hospital but this time, the fever just refused to come down, especially at night,” she says.
She’s not the only person fretting. Sameer Chhabra took his two-year-old Ahaan to a doctor because his son’s symptoms of cough, cold and runny nose persisted for over almost a week. “Viruses have kept us very busy this week, with people complaining of common cold, fever, upper respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal problems, dengue and chickenpox,” said Dr Arvind Taneja, director of paediatrics at Max Healthcare.
“The current outbreak is not very virulent but the illness is lasting for a day or two more. People are complaining of symptoms of cough, cold, body ache and fever without diarrhoea and vomiting that last for five to six days after which patients get better on their own,” says Dr Anupam Sibal, senior paediatric-gastroenterologist, and group director of medical services, Apollo Hospitals.
Experts say you should look for “localising symptoms” that indicate the underlying cause of the fever. “A cough, runny or blocked nose and a sore throat indicate an upper respiratory tract infection, while diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach-ache are symptoms of a gastrointestinal infection,” says Dr Taneja.
Since viruses cause these illnesses, the disease is self-limiting and takes about five days to a week to subside on its own. “There is no need for antibiotics. The symptoms can be treated to make the patient feel comfortable, and may include paracetamol to bring down the fever, or a probiotics and oral rehydration solution for a stomach infection,” says Dr Sibal.
Rash, breathlessness and vomiting could be signs of a more serious illness such as dengue and there is chicken pox going around. “People, however, should not panic if the platelet count is low as some viral illnesses other than dengue may also cause platelets to drop,” says Dr Taneja. Since the platelet count and the total white blood cells (WBC) go down because of other viral infections as well, people need not take lower than normal counts as a surefire indication of dengue.
Even if the blood tests confirm dengue, there is no need to panic. “Dengue is dangerous for 1 per cent people who get it. In the other 99 per cent of the cases, the fever gets better on its own and the platelet count goes up,” says Dr Sibal. A transfusion is needed only if the patient starts bleeding from the gums, mouth or nose or the total WBC goes below 1,500 (normal is over 4,000) and platelets go as low as 15,000.