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Chikungunya in Children: Treatment and Prevention

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Chikungunya is a viral fever caused by a mosquito bite. Fever, joint pain, and skin rashes are the common symptoms of this disease.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Partha Sarathi Adhya

Published At November 14, 2023
Reviewed AtNovember 14, 2023


Chikungunya is a viral infection primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. This disorder was first documented in 1952 in Tanzania. Such disease is predominantly seen in Asian, African, and South American countries. While the disease is generally self-limiting and rarely fatal, it can be especially concerning when it affects children. The symptoms of chikungunya include fever, joint pain, muscle pain, headache, and rash. Joint pain is often severe and can persist for weeks or months, leading to significant discomfort. In some cases, patients may experience long-term joint issues.

What Are the Symptoms?

Children infected with the chikungunya virus often exhibit symptoms that are somewhat similar to those in adults but can manifest differently. Symptoms usually appear four to eight days after the mosquito bite and may include:

  1. High fever.

  2. Joint pain.

  3. Muscle aches.

  4. Headache.

  5. Nausea.

  6. Fatigue.

  7. Rash.

In some cases, chikungunya infection in children may present with additional complications, such as irritability, decreased appetite, and difficulty sleeping. While the symptoms can be distressing, especially for young children, the majority of cases resolve within a week. Fever tends to be high and abrupt, causing considerable discomfort. The joint pain can be severe and debilitating but generally does not lead to permanent damage. It is crucial for parents and caregivers to monitor the child's hydration levels, as the fever and nausea associated with chikungunya can lead to dehydration. Providing ample fluids and ensuring rest are essential components of managing the illness.

What Are the Causes of Chikungunya?

The primary mode of transmission for chikungunya is through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes are more active during the daytime, especially around dawn and dusk. It is important to note that the virus can also be transmitted from a mother to her newborn during childbirth, although such cases are rare.

What Are the Complications of Chikungunya?

In children, complications are relatively less common but can include:

  1. Persistent joint pain.

  2. Neurological issues, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in rare cases.

  3. Skin infections secondary to scratching of the rash.

  4. Dehydration due to fever and reduced fluid intake.

What Are Some Home-Based Care Tips?

1. Stay Hydrated: Given that fever and nausea can lead to dehydration, make sure the child drinks ample fluids like water, fruit juices, and oral rehydration solutions.

2. Fever Management: Over-the-counter fever reducers like Acetaminophen can be helpful. However, one should consult the pediatrician for the appropriate dosage.

3. Rest: Adequate rest is essential for faster recovery, so ensure the child gets plenty of sleep.

4. Warm Compress: For joint pains, a warm compress can offer temporary relief and may provide relief from joint pain.

5. Skin Care: If a rash develops, Calamine lotion can be applied to relieve itching. Ensure the child's nails are trimmed to minimize the risk of skin infections due to scratching.

What Are the Preventive Measures?

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some preventative steps one can take:

  1. Use mosquito repellents that are safe for children.

  2. Dress the child in long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

  3. Keep windows and doors closed or screened.

  4. Eliminate any standing water around the home where mosquitoes can breed.

Furthermore, educating children about the importance of personal protection against mosquito bites can empower them to take an active role in safeguarding their health. Parents and caregivers should also be vigilant in monitoring their child's outdoor activities, particularly during times when mosquitoes are most active, such as early morning and late afternoon. Chikungunya may have an impact on a child's health. Remember, early detection and treatment are key in such cases. Consult the healthcare provider if there is any suspected chikungunya infection in the child.

What Are the Treatment Options?

There is currently no specific antiviral treatment available for chikungunya. The approach is generally symptomatic, focusing on relieving the symptoms of the child. The typical treatment regimen is as follows;


  1. Pain Relievers: Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and reduce fever. However, consult the healthcare provider for appropriate dosages tailored for the child.

  2. Anti-itch Creams: Topical ointments may be prescribed for severe rashes or itching.


In severe cases, especially when complications like dehydration or encephalitis occur, hospitalization may be required for:

  1. Intravenous (IV) fluid replacement.

  2. Close monitoring of neurological symptoms.

What Are the Long-Term Effects?

Chikungunya is generally a self-limiting disease. As a result, most children recover without any long-lasting impact on their health. However, some kids may experience lingering symptoms such as:

  • Persistent Joint Pain: A small percentage of patients, including children, experience joint pain that can last for weeks to months after the acute phase of the disease.
  • Psychological Impact: Persistent pain and discomfort can sometimes lead to mood changes or irritability in children.

Follow-up Care: Even after the child recovers from the acute symptoms, regular follow-ups with the healthcare provider are advisable to:

  1. Monitor for any lingering symptoms.

  2. Evaluate overall health and well-being.

  3. Ensure there are no complications like chronic arthritis (inflammation in the joints) or neurological issues.

Prevention Revisited: A recap on prevention can never hurt, especially considering there is no vaccine for chikungunya. Continue to focus on:

  1. Mosquito Control: Use child-friendly mosquito repellents and ensure that sleeping areas are well-screened.
  2. Public Awareness: Educate the child and others on the importance of avoiding mosquito bites, especially when traveling to areas where chikungunya is prevalent.

  3. Community Measures: Work with community health initiatives to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.


While chikungunya in children is generally less severe compared to adults, the discomfort and potential complications should not be taken lightly. Early detection and appropriate medical care are crucial for a quicker and smoother recovery. Follow-up care is equally important to ensure the child returns to their usual vibrant health. With the right care, most children bounce back to their normal lives quickly, showing the remarkable resilience that kids often display.

Remember, each child is different, and what works for one may not be applicable for another. The goal of the treatment is to manage symptoms effectively while also focusing on the overall well-being of the child. Emotional support can be particularly important; being there for the child can make a significant difference in how quickly they recover, both physically and emotionally.

Dr. Gaurav Gupta
Dr. Gaurav Gupta

General Practitioner


aedes mosquitochikungunya
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