Dengue during pregnancy can turn fatal; know complications, symptoms and prevention tips
For pregnant women, dengue can pose serious health risks not only to themselves but also to their unborn babies. All you want to know.
Dengue cases are rising exponentially in the capital and last week the number of cases stood at 105 raising alarm bells to take preventive measures for containing the spread. As per a Hindustan Times report, this tally is the highest number of cases reported till August 5 for at least the last 10 years. Amid the rapid spread of the mosquito-borne illness the vulnerable sections of population should take the required precautions to safeguard their health. This includes pregnant women as they are not only at increased risk of getting infected by dengue, but it can also cause complications for the unborn baby which includes preterm birth and even foetal death. (Also read: Dengue surge: Mild to dangerous, common signs and symptoms of different dengue strains)
As monsoon is here to stay for some time and dengue cases are seeing upward swing, one must closely monitor symptoms like fever and rash, aches eye pain, muscle, joint, or bone pain, vomiting, nausea etc. It's important for expecting mothers to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants minimising the risk of a mosquito bite.
How monsoon increases risk of dengue
"As the monsoon season sets in, so does the increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue. For pregnant women, dengue can pose serious health risks not only to themselves but also to their unborn babies. To safeguard against this potential threat, it is crucial to take proactive measures at home during this vulnerable time," says Dr Chandrika Anand, Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology, Fortis Hospitals, Nagarbhavi, Bengaluru.
How dengue spreads, know symptoms
Dengue is a viral infection transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, which are more active during the monsoon season.
"The symptoms of dengue can range from mild to severe and may include high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, rash, and bleeding. In severe cases, dengue can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) or dengue shock syndrome (DSS), which can be life-threatening," adds Dr Chandrika
Why pregnant women are more at risk of dengue
"During pregnancy, the immune system undergoes changes to support the growing foetus, making pregnant women more susceptible to infections like dengue. Additionally, hormonal changes during pregnancy can also impact the severity of the disease if infected. Moreover, dengue infection during pregnancy can lead to complications for both the mother and the baby, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and even foetal death," says Dr Chandrika.
Preventive steps at home
Prevention is the best remedy for avoiding dengue and whether you are at home, workplace, commuting, you must wear the right clothing, and apply mosquito repellent creams. Preventing waterlogging and using mosquito nets can help minimise changes of getting dengue.
De Chandrika shares some preventive measures for dengue:
Use mosquito repellent: Applying mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin and clothing can significantly reduce the risk of mosquito bites. Pregnant women should choose a repellent that is safe for use during pregnancy and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Wear protective clothing: Covering up with long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed shoes can provide an additional layer of protection against mosquito bites, especially when spending time outdoors.
Stay indoors during peak mosquito hours: Mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk. Pregnant women should avoid outdoor activities during these times and opt for indoor spaces with screened windows and doors.
Drain standing water: Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so it is essential to remove any standing water around the home. Regularly check and empty water in buckets, flowerpots, and birdbaths to eliminate potential breeding sites.
Screen windows and doors: Installing screens on windows and doors can effectively prevent mosquitoes from entering the home. Properly maintained screens create a barrier against these disease-carrying insects.
Use a mosquito net: If living in an area with a high mosquito population or traveling to such regions, using a mosquito net while sleeping can provide a peaceful and bite-free night's rest.
Seeking medical attention
If a pregnant woman suspects that she has dengue or experiences any concerning symptoms during pregnancy, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.
"Dengue can be particularly severe for pregnant women, so early detection and prompt treatment are vital to ensure the best possible outcome for both the mother and the baby. A falling platelet count or bleeding from any site in the body itself counts as an indication to visit a hospital. It is very important to look for bleeding manifestations," says Dr Chandrika.
Complications of dengue fever
- Acute hepatitis
- Dengue encephalitis and seizures
- Intracranial haemorrhage
- Fulminant myocarditis
- Acute kidney injury
- Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis
- Retinal vasculitis
How dengue fever is diagnosed
Dengue fever is diagnosed by detection of viral nucleic acid in serum by means of reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay which is positive during the first five days of illness or via detection of viral antigen non-structural protein NS1 which is positive during the first seven days of illness.
Additional measures for dengue prevention during pregnancy by Dr Chandrika:
Consult your doctor: Pregnant women should talk to their healthcare provider about their specific risk of contracting dengue during pregnancy. The doctor can help assess the risk and provide personalized preventive measures.
Be vigilant regardless of location: Mosquitoes can travel over long distances, making dengue a concern even in areas not commonly associated with the disease. Pregnant women should stay vigilant and take precautions regardless of their location.
Know the symptoms: Familiarising oneself with the symptoms of dengue is crucial, as they can often be mistaken for other illnesses. If experiencing any signs of dengue, such as high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, or rash, seeking medical evaluation promptly is essential.
"By adopting these preventive steps and seeking early medical attention if needed, pregnant women can significantly reduce their risk of contracting dengue during the monsoon season. Protecting oneself from mosquito bites is crucial not only for the expectant mother's well-being but also for the health and safety of her precious baby. Remember, staying informed and proactive is the key to a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy journey during the monsoon season," adds Dr Chandrika.