(My Mom doesn’t know about this, but I guess she’s about to. Sorry, Mom.)

It was the first Saturday that I was not sick. I felt like I had been sick for months, but I knew that couldn’t be true because it didn’t add up if I looked at the calendar. Just four weeks ago I was at a party and I remember feeling great. As I was trying to piece together the dates and duration of my illness, the phone rang. I looked down to see my neighbor’s name appear on the screen.

“Hey Ina, what’s up?” I answered.

“Hey Erin, do you have plans for tonight?”

“I’m working on a project, why?” I responded.

“Do you think you could watch my kids? I need to go to the hospital because I think I have Dengue.”

I told her of course I would watch them. She started telling me how I needed to be sure because I had to watch them every second or they would do “weird things like mix the shampoos and conditioners all together.” At this point I’m wondering why she even cares about her shampoo – doesn’t Dengue kill you?!

I get off the phone and immediately google Dengue. It doesn’t kill you. Well, it doesn’t kill everyone. In fact, according to Wikipedia, 80% of Dengue cases are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms. I continue to read about the terrible fever that comes and goes, the decrease in cognitive ability, the headache, and the rash.

I had a rash. On my chest and back. I thought it was an allergic reaction to a new laundry detergent. Ina arrived home and I went outside to greet her – she had the same rash that I had.

She went to the hospital and came home with a pain reliever and the doctor’s advice to drink a lot of fluids. She had Dengue Fever.

I had Dengue Fever.

There are a lot of symptoms for Dengue Fever and what I have learned since is that it’s not the same for everyone and symptoms vary among different people. There is a health alert for Dengue in Costa Rica. Apparently the stupid drought has a lot to do with the increase in cases this year. That drought is messing everything up.

What Dengue Fever was like for me

There was a lot of mucus, a bad headache, a rash on my chest and back, and a terrible fever. I lost my appetite. I know for sure there were 3 days in which I only ate 1 bag of popcorn and some bananas. I never threw up and don’t remember any abdominal pain.

It wasn’t the sickest I’ve ever been, but I don’t really remember much of it, so maybe it was. I do remember a couple of times I was sitting in front of the computer and trying to work – the end result was one email being sent. In one day. One email. And I remember trying to remember why it took all day, but I couldn’t progress my mind beyond that initial thought. Hey, at least I was up.

My other neighbors told me about a previous Saturday when my dog, Mocha, came to their house and brought them to my treehouse, like Lassie. They say she came in to their house and nudged them with her nose, which she had never done before. They followed her because according to them “she looked scared.” I was passed out on the bed and they woke me. I don’t remember this.

I went to the doctor when I was feeling a little better, feeling like I could leave the house. All I told him was that I was having a really hard time concentrating. I forgot to tell him my other symptoms. He prescribed “Geriatric Farmaton,” seriously.

a written prescription for geriatric formula in Costa Rica

I did NOT fill this prescription.

I started feeling better, but still really low on energy. I thought maybe I was not feeling well because I had eaten too much fruit this year. I actually thought this. I had my appetite back, so I went out and ate plate after plate of meat to try to balance things out.

Then I got another fever. After the fever broke and I felt like I could leave the house again, I went back to the doctor. This time I told him I had had a fever, but still failed to mention the first fever or the rash or anything else. He prescribed five days of antibiotic shots in the butt. After a few days of antibiotic shots, I started to feel better. I don’t think I needed them, but maybe an infection had developed and I did need them. Who knows.

I’m better now and apparently immune to all types of Dengue for a bit. I feel great, food is awesome, and so is leaving the house. My neighbor is on the mend. We had all of the same symptoms except her eyes turned black like she had been punched. She looks fine now.

I wonder what my experience would have been like if I had known it was Dengue. I think I probably would have freaked out and who knows what I would have done since I couldn’t think straight. It probably would not have helped.

Bonus: Since I went through Dengue and didn’t know it, I thought I’d put together this extremely useful illustrated guide in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation.


a guide on how to have dengue fever and not even know it