Malaria is tropical disease spread by infected mosquitoes. If malaria is not diagnosed and treated promptly, it can be deadly.
Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. Malaria may also cause anaemia and jaundice because of the loss of red blood cells.
Malaria is caused by a type of parasite known as Plasmodium. Although numerous types of Plasmodia parasites exist, only 5 of these can cause malaria.
The Plasmodium parasite is mainly spread by the female Anopheles mosquitoes, which tend to bite at dusk and at night. The parasites enter the bloodstream of a bitten person. Just one single bite is all it takes for someone to become infected.
Unfortunately you cannot receive a malaria jab from your doctor before travelling to high risk areas for the disease.
Therefore, you will need to take malaria tablets – This will be an antimalarial often started prior to beginning your trip, taken throughout your stay, and the course completed after you have returned home. The choice of antimalarial will depends on a number of factors such as effectiveness, the price you want to pay, or various side effects with each. If you are unsure which is suitable for you, speak to your own doctor first.
You can also try to prevent mosquito bites by applying a DEET-containing insect repellent, such as Jungle Formula. Make sure to apply the spray to all exposed clean and dry skin (do not apply to the eyes or lips). You should also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net.
Remember that prior to travelling to any other country, you need to read about the country, the possible risks involved, whether you need vaccinations, medication, etc. The last thing you and your family want is to be stranded in another country and exposed to a number of risks with no protection. Antimalarials are just one of a number of such protections.
If you are travelling to areas where malaria is a high risk, you should be aware of the malaria symptoms:
- A high temperature of 38C or above.
- Feeling hot and shivery.
- Muscle pain.
If you show signs of malaria during or after your trip, seek medical assistance immediately, regardless of how long it has been since you travelled.
A doctor will carry out a blood test to confirm the presence of malaria or not – with results back on the same day. If you do have malaria, treatment should be started immediately.
Your doctor will usually prescribe an antimalarial – the same type of drugs that can prevent malaria too. The type of antimalarial and duration of treatment however will depend on certain factors such as the type of malaria you have, where you caught it, how severe it is, whether you took an antimalarial to prevent malaria, etc.