The rise of dengue fever cases in the country this year has become a cause of concern for health experts. The most feared complication of dengue fever is known as ‘haemorrhagic complication’ or those related to bleeding. What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that there are certain medications that should be used cautiously when dealing with dengue fever, as they can aggravate the bleeding tendencies present with dengue.
In 2015, following a surge of cases of dengue in Delhi, officials had banned the sale of aspirin without a prescription, as it was one such medication. Aspirin works as an anti-inflammatory agent that reduces swelling and inflammation following any injury in the body. Anti-inflammatory drugs are given as pain relievers and also commonly for headaches and fevers. However, aspirin is also given following a heart attack as it prevents the blood from clotting, as clots can form blocks in the vessels and aggravate the heart attack. If aspirin is given to an individual who has dengue, it may cause or aggravate bleeding.
This raises the question – are there other commonly used medicines that can potentially have a harmful effect on someone diagnosed with dengue?
Like aspirin, diclofenac and ibuprofen also fall under a group of drugs called Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs generally have a mechanism similar to aspirin by which they work to reduce any inflammation in the body following an infection or injury. They are also commonly used over-the-counter drugs.
“One of the most commonly seen features of dengue is the drastic drop in the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are cells in the blood that play an important role in blood clotting. A decrease in the number of platelets means that there is a higher chance of occurrence of bleeding,” explains Dr Bhasker, a general physician and dengue expert from Chennai.
He further adds that when aspirin, diclofenac or ibuprofen are given to those diagnosed with dengue, there is a greater chance of the person developing bleeding related complications.
In addition to these drugs, there are certain other drugs called anticoagulants or ‘blood thinners’ that can also have a similar effect on someone with dengue; however, these drugs are generally given only with prescription and only prescribed if the doctor deems it necessary.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by one of the five strains of the dengue virus. The virus is spread to humans via mosquito bites and currently doesn’t have a vaccine. It takes anywhere from 3 to 14 days for the fever to set in. In addition to fever, other commonly seen symptoms are joint pain, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain) and general fatigue.