The spread of dengue fever has become an international public health concern. The viral disease thrives in tropical humidity, and October and November are the most humid months of all in Vietnam.
Dr Nguyen Hong Ha, deputy director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, and Nguyen Tien Lam, head of the hospital's virus and parasitology department, say the commonest symptoms of dengue fever are:
- Sudden high fever that lasts two to seven days
- Severe to extreme joint and muscle pain
- Widespread skin rash
- Swollen glands
- Nosebleed, bleeding gums, easy bruising
- Blood in vomit or stools
- Swollen liver
- Shock, lethargy, physical exhaustion, cold and clammy skin, low blood pressure, stomachache, vomiting, urinary retention
- Early, prolonged or otherwise irregular menstruation
The doctors advise anyone with these symptoms to seek medical help without delay.
If the symptoms are light and dengue fever is merely a faint suspicion, paracetamol gives some symptomatic relief, citrus juice or straight Vitamin C fortifies the body, porridge and soup are light on the stomach, and lying down in a cool, airy room and taking it easy helps the body to recuperate.
A word of warning: Anyone exhibiting symptoms of dengue fever must not take aspirin as it inhibits blood clotting and thus worsens internal bleeding. In severe cases, taking aspirin can be fatal.
And forget about that old folk remedy of scraping an old coin along the skin. It's useless.
For relief from the debilitating symptoms of dengue fever, herbalist Hoai Vu offers the following natural remedies, especially to cool a feverish body and stop internal bleeding.
- The first one is a drink that can be made with 50g of peeled green mung beans, 30g of washed lá bạc hà (peppermint leaves) and 30g of white sugar. Place the beans and peppermint leaves in a pot, pour in one liter of water, and boil for 30 minutes. Filter out and discard the residue. Then stir sugar into the clear liquid and drink it during the day to cool the body.
- Vu's second suggestion is a quite different beverage made with 200g of sliced watermelon rind without the green skin, 30g of kim ngân hoa (Japanese honeysuckle or Lonicera japonica) and 30g of refined sugar. Place the rind and honeysuckle in a pot with one liter of water and boil for 30 minutes. Filter out and discard the residue, then dissolve the sugar in the clear liquid, which should be drunk during the day to cool the body and stop bleeding.
- The third is again a daytime drink for cooling a feverish body. For this, the ingredients are 150g of rau muá»‘ng (water morning glory), 20g of cúc hoa (daisy) and 50g of white sugar. Discard the old stems of the water morning glory and wash the edible remainder. Place the vegetable and the washed daisies in a pot with 1.5 liters of water and cook for 20 minutes. Filter out and discard the residue, add the sugar to the clear liquid, and boil it again until the sugar is melted.
- Next up is a porridge that requires 150g of washed and sliced celery, five washed black jujubes, 100g of washed rice and 50g of white sugar. Put the rice and jujubes in a pot, cover them with water, and cook over a high flame until the liquid thickens. Add the celery and boil for five minutes more. Turn off the stove, remove the pot, and stir in the sugar. The porridge, which helps cool the body and stop bleeding, and is good for dengue fever patients, should be eaten in the morning and again in the evening.
- Another porridge for cooling the body and relieving the symptoms of dengue fever can be made with 150g of peeled and chopped bí Ä‘ao (winter melon), 100g of washed rice and 50g of sugar. Place the rice in a pot, cover with water, and cook until it thickens nicely. Then add the winter melon and cook for 10 minutes more. Season the porridge with sugar or a very little salt to eat in the morning and evening.