Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen
Theo came down with dengue fever in Jaipur, India. As I write this, it’s the tenth day since his symptoms began. He’s doing so much better now, but it will take time to build up his strength. Even leaning down and standing back up is difficult at this point.
There is an outbreak of dengue fever in Jaipur, and in many other cities in India. The cause is the dengue virus, transmitted to people through mosquitoes.
The dengue virus can cause severe illness, and in rare cases, death. Conversely, you might not even get sick. Scientists do not understand why some people are asymptomatic, others have mild or moderate symptoms, and some people have severe or even life-threatening issues. They do know the different strains of the dengue virus are spreading around the world.
The most common symptoms of dengue fever: high fever, intense headaches, body aches including joint pain and eye pain, rash, nausea and vomiting.
Theo down with dengue fever in Jaipur
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 0 is asymptomatic, 7 is hospitalization, and 10 is death, I’d say Theo fell on the scale at a 6.25 or 6.5. I thought hospitalization was a real possibility at one point. Blessedly, that didn’t happen.
Let’s look at another scale of 1 to 10 — a scale of dengue fever misery. Zero is where the patient has no symptoms, and 10 is pure misery. On night #7 of dengue fever, Theo said he was a 9.5.
“This is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life!” he weakly yelled. “And I’m tired of it!” Then he went back into bed.
I’m writing this as he struggles to eat a small meal on day #10. I asked him where he is now on the scale of dengue misery. He answered: “Somewhere in the middle.”
Our wonderful Airbnb host helped us tremendously with this affliction. She arranged for a lab to send someone to the apartment to take blood samples to measure Theo’s platelets, white blood cells, liver damage indicators and more.
Each night the blood tests came back via WhatsApp. On day #4 his platelets were 123,000, lower than normal (higher than 150,000) but not enough to freak out. On day #6 his platelets dropped to 90,000 and I nearly panicked. Theo also had out-of-whack levels of elements in his blood. He was in pretty bad shape.
Then on day #7, his platelets were trending back up. There was no need for hospitalization, a tiny chance for dengue shock. His white blood cell count was back to normal, too. The medical experts said his recovery is underway. Indeed – on day #10, all of his blood work came back in the normal ranges.
The blood tests cost between $3 – $21, depending on what exactly was tested. I can only imagine what such tests would have cost in the Western world – which should get ready for dengue fever spikes as the climate changes and this virus continues to spread.
One of the biggest challenges as Theo’s caregiver was to get him to drink and eat. It is imperative a patient stays hydrated throughout this ordeal.
Tied for the biggest challenge – watching Theo suffer. He had zero relief for the first week.
Symptoms generally last from 2 to 7 days. However, it can take up to two weeks to feel better, and it can take a few months to regain strength. Theo’s body is depleted of energy from fighting a virus at the cellular level.
His biggest issues were high fever, crazy headaches, body pain, and more, all the worst it can possibly be. I was helpless to relieve his symptoms. The virus had to run its course.
Lucky to be in Jaipur
News reports across India tell of spikes in cases of dengue fever, including here in Jaipur. If Theo had needed a hospital, we are in a place that has many good ones.
Prior to Jaipur, we had been spending a week or so at other locations in the desert state of Rajasthan. We had been ‘fast’ slow traveling around India since we have arrived in early September. So for Theo to come down with dengue fever in Jaipur was actually really lucky. I cannot imagine him moving, carrying luggage, riding trains in this weakened condition.
In fact, we are in the best possible place for Theo to recover. We had planned to stay in Jaipur for one month anyway. The apartment we rented is comfortable and nicely furnished, great mattress, air conditioning, spotless bathroom, many fans, well-equipped kitchen and a washing machine. It’s also ideally located around pharmacies and other essential shopping.
As I mentioned, our hostess has been an exceptional life saver. Dengue is endemic here, and locals use things like goat milk, fresh coconut water, papaya leaf extract juice — a home remedy elixir said to bring up platelet levels. Our hostess made sure Theo was well supplied with the elixir.
Dengue fever cases spike every year after the monsoon season, so local people know what can help manage symptoms through their experience. This seasonal spike also happens in other countries.
Hydration and sleep and paracetamol are really the only keys to dealing with the dreaded dengue fever.
Three days before Theo fell ill, I had a low-grade fever, severe body aches, and I slept the better part of two days. On the third day, I was feeling much better – almost ‘normal’. On the fourth day I was totally fine, but that day, Theo went into bed in the early afternoon with a fever and chills. He’s hardly left that bed since then.
Lucky, lucky, lucky
I’m so grateful Theo didn’t need hospitalization, and that we are in the best place possible for him to regain his strength.
Another lucky break: we were not sick at the same time, and I wasn’t down more than 2.5 days. I shop for fresh coconuts and juice, groceries, and I cook (or try to) and do chores. Theo can sleep and convalesce as much as he needs.
As former journalists who are now budget slow travelers in early retirement, we have no deadlines. Damn lucky.