Is dengue harder on the elderly?

Research data confirms what experts like Best Internal Medicine Specialist in Islamabad postulated: dengue fever is indeed harder on the elderly. Read on to know more about dengue fever and its effects:

What is dengue fever?


Dengue fever is a prevalent mosquito-borne infection that affects millions of people worldwide, every year. Dengue is caused by four different viruses and spreads through aedes mosquitoes. Anyone who contracts dengue fever develops a lifetime immunity against that particular strain of the virus. However, they are still susceptible to the other strains.

What are the symptoms of dengue fever?


Dengue presents with flu-like symptoms around fourth to tenth day of infection. Initially, the symptoms are mild and can be mistaken for another infection—like malaria or typhoid. These symptoms last for two days to a week. These include:

  • High grade fever
  • Severe pain in the body and muscle aches
  • Joint pains
  • Retroorbital pain is characteristic of dengue fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin rash appears around the fifth day of infection
  • Belly pain
  • Mild vomiting
  • Fatigue and restlessness

How is dengue fever diagnosed?


Blood tests are used to diagnose dengue fever and the antibodies against the dengue virus. The virological test detects elements of the virus. The serological test detects antibodies against the virus. This tells about recent infection and may be used as a confirmatory test.

How is dengue fever treated?


Treatment for simple dengue fever is with over-the-counter antipyretics like acetaminophen, with plenty of fluids and rest. Aspirin and ibuprofen should not be used during dengue fever.

What are the complications of dengue fever?


On its own, dengue fever rarely becomes fatal. However, when it progresses to dengue hemorrhagic fever or severe dengue, things can get out of hand. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is common in individuals with poor immune systems, and people living in or traveling to regions of high prevalence like the Caribbean, Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia. The incidence of severe dengue is also higher in pregnant women who may pass the virus to the fetus, and people in the extremes of ages like the infants and the elderly.


Dengue hemorrhagic fever is characterized by:

  • High-grade fever
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • New onset of pain
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Bruising under the skin
  • Difficulty in breathing


The onset of severe dengue is often sudden and may occur in a patient seemingly on the road to recovery. The diagnosis of severe dengue begins with a complete physical examination like checking the fever, blood pressure, examining the hands, feet, and eyes, and needs investigations like chest x-ray, coagulation studies, and complete blood count.


In the elderly, the symptoms can be difficult to manage if diagnosed late. The mainstay of treatment is constant monitoring and fluids, as the patient rapidly deteriorates and goes into hemorrhagic shock. Other treatment options include oxygen therapy, electrolyte replacement, and blood transfusions.


Rapidly deteriorating patient of dengue hemorrhagic fever can have severe brain damage, heart damage, blood clots, seizures, organ failure, shock and eventually death.

How to prevent dengue fever?


The best way of preventing dengue fever is avoiding mosquito bites and reducing their population. In addition, the Food and Drug Authority (FDA), approved a vaccine called dengvaxia in 2019, which is available in a few countries. The dosage of this vaccine includes three shots, six months apart.


In high-risk areas, the following measures should be taken:

  • Use of mosquito repellants in the indoors and outdoors
  • Avoiding skin exposure with the use of long-sleeved shirts and wearing pants
  • Using mosquito nets while sleeping outdoors
  • Securing holes in windows and door screens from which mosquitos can enter
  • Getting rid of mosquito breeding areas like water collecting cans, empty vessels, empty planters, pet dishes, flower pots, and birdbaths.


For more information about preventing dengue fever, help from healthcare experts should be sought. They are available for booking at:

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