Dengue Fever: Prevention, Treatment and Tawa Tawa Plant

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By Willie T. Ong, MD, The Philippine STAR, July 7, 2009

The rains are here again. And so are those killer mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus. In a year’s time, thousands of Filipinos get sick from dengue, and many have died as a result. Symptoms include 2 to 5 days of high fever, which may be followed by bleeding, shock and death.
The danger is real. If Kris Aquino’s kids could get dengue, then anyone can get sick from this deadly virus.
In order to prevent dengue, we need to hunt down those killer mosquitoes, but that’s easier said than done. Here are ten strategies to do it.

1. Clean up your backyard. Mosquitoes love to stay in dark and damp areas. So if your garage is littered with boxes and assorted junks, clean them up or throw them away. Don’t let them become mosquito havens. Schedule a weekend clean-up day.
2. Empty containers with stagnant water. The dengue-carrying mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. This means that flower pots, garbage cans, aquariums, unused swimming pools, tires and other mud and piles are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. So after the rains fill them with water, throw the water away. Next time, keep these containers closed and upside down. Flower vase water should also be replaced weekly.
3. Check your surroundings for stagnant water. Some ornamental plant leaves have this whorl or cup-like shape that can hold water. Beautiful to behold but deadly in design. Turn them over and throw the water away. Upturned coconut shells are also notorious for holding water. Non-moving rivers, especially in squatter areas are full of mosquito eggs.
4. Close your doors and windows. Some people open their doors in the morning for a whiff of fresh air. They also believe that mosquitoes would leave the house and go into the sunlight. But my advice is to keep your doors shut at all times. If it’s too stuffy, then place a screen door that keeps the flies and mosquitoes outside.
5. Spray insecticide regularly. To rid your house of mosquitoes, flies and cockroaches, spray insecticides every few days. Make sure you spray those dark corners, crevices and cabinets. You’ll be amazed at the number of vermins you’ll find dead in the morning. Just make sure that household members are not exposed to the insecticide as they are not the target. Just spray selected rooms and keep people out for at least 2 hours.
6. Wear pants, pajamas, long sleeves, and socks. Mosquitoes are attracted to our breath as we exhale so they know how to reach us even in the dark. And I guess they love bare, plump skin, especially the kids who don’t shoo them away and let them suck as much blood as they want. So better ask your school authorities to let the kids wear pants and rubbers shoes. They’ll love it.
7. Place OFF Lotion or use mosquito nets. If your kids are going hiking, camping or off to school, you can apply insect-repellants like OFF Lotion. Kids like to play outdoors and are prime targets of these mosquitoes. You can wipe it on selected areas of the clothing, like collars, sleeves and just some on the skin. Avoid applying lotion on eyes, mouth or hands.
8. Kill those mosquitoes. When it comes to dengue, it’s either kill or be killed. Instruct everyone to kill as many mosquitoes and flies as they can. Once you’ve got them trapped in your bathroom, show no mercy. Don’t be bothered by your conscience since mosquitoes belong to the forest, not in our homes.
9. Involve the whole community. The best way to defeat dengue is if the whole barangay is aware of the threat. Ask the barangay to schedule a clean up day. The danger is in those empty houses and lots, which are excellent breeding places for mosquitoes. Get your barangay into the act. Become a volunteer to monitor and clean up your surroundings.
10. Spread the word: Dengue fever is here. You’ll never know where dengue will strike next so better be prepared. Inform your friends, too.

Treatment for Dengue:
As you are probably aware of, there is no specific drug to kill the dengue virus. However, doctors can employ various supportive measures to strengthen the body so that it can recover from the disease. Here’s how we do it:

1. Patients are encouraged to drink lots of water to keep the body’s water at an optimum level. If needed, doctors give dextrose fluid to prevent dehydration.
2. Monitoring of blood count. Doctors check the hematocrit and platelet count regularly to see if there is a need to transfuse blood components.
3. Consider giving medicines to prevent ulcer, since bleeding is a possibility.
4. Encourage the patient to eat regularly, specifically soft, easily digestible foods. Patients are advised to avoid eating dark colored foods, because we need to monitor the stool’s color. (Black stools means blood for doctors.)
5. Tawa Tawa might help. Locally, many are using Tawa Tawa plants to treat dengue. The Department of Health is still studying the effectiveness of this plant, and has raised concern over the possibility of toxicity with over dosage. However, doctors would usually allow patients to drink it if you ask their permission first. Here’s how to prepare Tawa Tawa: (1) Take 5 whole Tawa Tawa plants; (2) Cut off the roots, then wash and clean; (3) Boil Tawa Tawa in a pot of clean water; (4) Pour the liquid and then let cool; (5) Sip 1 glass 3 to 4 times a day.
But remember, always consult your doctor first before undergoing any treatment. Our infectious disease specialists are still your best bet to get cured from dengue. Take care!

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