CHIKUNGUNYA SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN: CAUSES, DIAGNOSIS AND PREVENTION:
“Rahul park me khelne jaa rahe ho, machar hai, sleeves upar karna nahi.” says mother.
“Bilkul nahi.” says Rahul.
“Meri baat sun rahe ho?” asks mother.
“Bilkul Nahi.” replies restless Rahul.
Vacations are over and friends are meeting after a big gap. So, as usual all children can’t wait to go to the park and meet friends in the evenings. And, then these Aedes mosquitoes run their havoc. Mosquitoes are the reason for mother’s maladies.
For a start the children come up with rashes and you preach them how they don’t bathe properly. After a day or two, the fever starts slowly and goes up to 105. You rush to the doctor and he asks for the blood test as he suspects chikungunya! As you come back from the clinic you wonder what chikungunya is. And more importantly, WHAT ALL WERE THE SYMPTOMS OF CHIKUNGUNYA IN CHILDREN that you missed.
The disease gets its name from a Tanzanian word which literally means “that which becomes contorted or that which bends up”. It refers to the stooped posture and painful joints that are the main features of this disease. Although the joint pain is not as severe in children as it is in adults, it takes many days before the child is fully recovered. Your bundle of joy will be tired most of the time and his normal growth will become slow.
Here’s some help about how to identify chikungunya in children:
SYMPTOMS OF CHIKUNGUNYA IN CHILDREN
The most common symptoms of Chikungunya in children are skin rashes and fever. The other common symptoms of Chikungunya are nausea, headache, joint pain, vomiting and weakness. These problems may last for couple of weeks. The virus affects badly within one to twelve days.
Due to the mosquito bite, you will realize, the baby is crying more than usual and gets irritated very soon.
Check the baby for the rashes as soon as you find it a little cranky. Children are more likely to have rashes than adults. The rash of chikungunya usually shows up on the arms, back and shoulders and occasionally over the entire body. In some children the rash looks like pigment changes, and affects the face.
Sometimes it follows the rashes while at other times it may come suddenly and be followed by rashes all over the body in 2-3 days’ time.
4. Joint Pain:
Since children’s joints are developing, the arthritic pain doesn’t last long. Also, the virus targets larger joints of a child’s body like the hip joint and knee, which makes the pain a little less.
7. Nausea and vomiting
8. Bleeding from the nose and gums
CAUSES OF CHIKUNGUNYA IN CHILDREN
Chikungunya is caused due to a viral infection. That’s why it is also known as a vector disease. When an infected Aedes mosquito bites the victim, the chikungunya virus is injected into the blood of the human being through the skin. Stagnant water- bodies, small and big, are the breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito.
DIAGNOSIS OF CHIKUNGUNYA IN CHILDREN
The main problem with Chikungunya in children is that it is difficult to diagnose. But once it is diagnosed it is easy to treat it. Although it takes minimum 8-15 days for the children to fully recover their strength.
- As a parent you will definitely observe a difference in the behaviour of the child. S/he will be easily irritated, tired and depressed. The usual restlessness and liveliness will be missing as will be their appetite. Fever renders a person very pale and weak.
- In addition to it, will be the physical symptoms of rashes, fever and joint pain that the child will start complaining about. But since there is a very thin line differentiating the fever from chikungunya to dengue, you better rush to the doctor, if the fever or the rashes don’t stop.
- The doctor will ask you several questions related to the symptoms and exposure to mosquitoes of your child; your travel history etc.
- He will advise a blood test to detect presence of the virus.
- Occasionally, a complete blood count may also be suggested to check how badly the blood platelets have dropped.
PREVENTION OF CHIKUNGUNYA IN CHILDREN
Every parent will agree it is difficult to keep children indoors at all times. They need to go out and play in the parks, gardens or society parking. And these are exactly the places where the Aedes mosquito finds its habitat and children’s exposed limbs make them an easy prey for it. Once bitten, it takes a fortnight for the child to completely recover from the disease.
Since there is no specific drug / medicine to cure chikungunya, prevention becomes the real cure for this disease. According to doctors proper rest and nutritious food is the only treatment for chikungunya in children. And we all know how difficult it is to make them take rest, so whatever it takes, do it and take these precautions:
- Avoid stagnant water accumulation anywhere near your house and play areas. Empty your coolers, water tanks/tubs, bird pools and any other place where rain water seeps in.
- Treat your overhead water tanks, community pools or fancy fountains with larvicides. A desi treatment is using the Guppy fishes. They are effective in stopping the mosquitoes.
- Clean your balconies, store rooms, junkyards, garages and other places where you pile up things regularly. Check the corners for cobwebs or dampness. Especially your balconies, if you keep any plants there.
- Ensure your doors and windows have wire meshes as they keep the mosquitoes out while keeping the room well aired/ ventilated.
- Keep your home and esp. bedrooms cool and well ventilated at all times as the mosquitoes don’t grow in cooler areas. At times the Air conditioners are more effective compared to desert coolers as they help to keep the rooms cool and mosquitoes out.
- Be careful when the young babies and toddlers sleep during the daytime. Ensure that they are covered with nets/repellant creams adequately.
- Remember the Aedes mosquito is active during the day as well as night. Use the mosquito repellants in all forms during the whole day.
- Gone are the days of sticky, thick Odomos cream which would make the mosquitoes and friends faint from faraway distance. Instead, there are many variants of the repellant such as sprays, fluids and the most popular with children are the bands and patches with fresh fragrance.
- Ensure that children come back home after play before sunset.
- In case they want to stay longer, make them wear full sleeve T-shirts and full pants/ leggings. This way the chances of getting infected by the virus are lesser.
- Also, choose lighter shades for their play clothes as mosquitoes are attracted towards darker colours.
- If the kids are down with fever and headache, consult the doctor before giving any medicine, be it aspirin or PCM syrup.
- Keep them hydrated: Give them a lot of water and fluids to drink. Soups, fresh juices will help in improving their appetite if they are down with fever or trying to recover.
- Go for harmless home remedies such as daily dose of coconut water which will help detoxify the child’s liver where the virus develops and causes the pain.
- If the child complains of joint pain after the fever or the rashes have subsided, give them a warm water bath with magnesium sulphate in it. It will help to reduce their joint pain to a great extent. But don’t try it for babies as they may gulp the water.
Schools, Bus Stops, Playgrounds, Parks and Gardens are the places where our children spend most of the time with their friends and play things. We need to see that the time spent here is cherished in the form of happy long lasting memories. Let’s try and keep the mosquito and the pain out of it.
P.S.: All the advice given in this article is based on my experiences as a parent and what I have seen in Chikungunya cases in my neighbourhood. Remember, your child may / may not show all the symptoms and may be stronger in fighting it out. So, do consult the doctor prior to giving any medication to your child.
Happy Parenting with Budding Star
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