Of Viral Illnesses

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and if you or anyone in your family does not feel healthy, please consult your doctor. This blog post is meant to just share and record my personal experience so that I may remember what the doctors told me (in my particular case).

When people get sick, more often that not, it is caused by a virus. We usually recover from mild or regular viral illnesses by resting, taking lots of fluids, and managing our body temperature by taking something like paracetamol. From my family's personal experience and discussions with our doctors, there is really nothing else that one can take for a viral illness (nothing really cures it) and it may take anywhere from 3 to 7 (or even 10?) to run its course.

Bacterial illnesses, on the other hand, are usually addressed with antibiotics, taken for usually seven days. With antibiotics, it is important to take your medicines regularly and for the time prescribed by your physician.

Recently, my daughter Ali got sick. She had fever in the 38 range from a Saturday till Wednesday. Beginning Monday, she looked like she had some rashes on her feet but nowhere else on her whole body. She only felt weak on the first day, threw up several times but never really lost her appetite. (Well, she really does not have an appetite in the first place.)

Based on my experience, I take my kids to the doctor when any fever lasts three days. With the H1N1 scare these days, I have cut the number of days to two so with Ali's fever having started on a Saturday morning, I already brought her to the doctor's clinic on a Monday morning (technically just two days only or 48 hours).

Of course, the doctor will order a blood test - a complete blood count (CBC), with platelet count. Based on Ali's results that day, it looked like it could be viral (according to the doctor because of the WBC count) and her platelet count was at 251, within the normal range of 140-440. Still, the doctor said that she could not yet rule out dengue. She would need to request for a repeat of the CBC in a few days.

On Wednesday, Ali's fever disappeared. More rashes, however, appeared on her body - on her legs and on her arms. I then asked the doctor if I should repeat the blood test already since in the case of my two-year old son years ago, I remember what his attending doctor said: that in dengue, usually the platelet count goes down when the fever disappears.

We repeated the CBC with platelet count test then on a Thursday and on a Friday, I got the results which showed that Ali's platelet count was now lower at 190. Unsure whether this was the drop that I was supposed to be worried over, I contacted Ali's other doctor just to ask if she had to be seen by a doctor immediately or if it could wait till the next day. I got the reply that 190 was still within normal range and based on how I described Ali's condition, it did not look like it was dengue hemorrhagic fever. I could wait till the next day to bring Ali to be checked by our HMO doctor.

The next day, Saturday, Ali was checked by a doctor at the HMO clinic. Reading Ali's second blood test results, the doctor assured us that it looked like a viral illness or mild dengue fever. There are different levels of viral illnesses in the family of dengue and it is dengue hemorrhagic fever (as opposed to mild dengue fever) that families and doctors guard against.

In the case of dengue hemorrhagic, I am told that the platelet count usually takes a sharp drop and that the patient's condition deteriorates within two days from the time that the fever disappears. Since Ali did not have a fever on a Wednesday and considering that it was already a Saturday, with the blood test taken on a Thursday, the doctor was quite confident that Ali was already on her way to recovery. She also said that the rashes usually become more plentiful during such time.

Looking at Ali's blood test results, the doctor also said that in the case of the hematocrit count, it usually goes up in the case of dengue hemorrhagic but in the case of Ali, it even went down. Bottomline, there are viral illnesses that can make the platelet count go down but not necessarily to low levels like 20 or 50.

The doctor also mentioned that more important than the results of all the tests, is looking at the clinical presentation of the child. In the case of Ali, if you did not know that she was sick or had fever or had rashes, you would not say that she was sick (except perhaps for her first few days). She continued to play and behave normally so all's well, that ends well.

So, if you think that something is wrong with your child, please see your doctor and take the necessary tests and precautions. It is better to be safe than sorry. More than medical doctors, I think mothers have the uncanny knack to sense if something may be seriously wrong with their children. After all, we are MDs too - Mother Dearest.

Then again, it is important to work closely with our doctors and the other medical professionals we deal with. I feel blessed knowing doctors who give of their time and talent whether it be asking a question via text or a phone call at a moment's notice.

So, please stay healthy everybody. Stay away from them viruses, particularly the swines.

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, June 7, 2009]

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