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What Is the Best Treatment for Dengue Fever?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Ask a Doctor

I heard about a really strange home remedy for dengue fever from a co-worker who travels a lot, and I wanted to find out if there’s any truth to it. Can papaya leaves cure dengue? Are there any other treatments?

Doctor's Response

Papaya leaf extract has been used to help increase platelet levels in some patients with dengue fever, but researchers caution that definitive studies are not yet available that confirm the utility of this treatment. Patients should consult their doctors before using this remedy.

Fortunately, this viral disease is usually self-limited and usually adequate hydration and pain control will help the person through the infection. However, for dengue fever, a caution is given by most doctors regarding home treatment. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents -- for example, aspirin (Bayer, Ecotrin), ibuprofen (Motrin), and other NSAIDs -- should be avoided because of the tendency of the dengue viruses to cause hemorrhages. The NSAIDs may add to the hemorrhage symptoms. Other medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), codeine, or other agents that are not NSAIDs may be used.

Home care for dengue fever is simply supportive care. Good oral hydration, pain control with Tylenol is usually adequate treatment for most people. However, there is no role for home care in patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever or for dengue shock syndrome; depending on the patient's condition, many physicians consider these conditions to be medical emergencies.

These more severe variations of dengue fever usually require additional supportive treatments; these patients often require hospitalization. IV fluid hydration, blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, blood pressure support, and other intensive care measures may need to be utilized in these patients. Consultation with infectious disease and critical care specialists is often advised to optimize patient care.

For more information, read our full medical article on dengue fever.

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Reviewed on 5/10/2019
Sources: References
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