What Is Malaria?

Malaria is a tropical disease contracted by infected mosquitoes and is present in over 100 countries. There are two general types of malaria: benign and malignant.

Benign malaria is milder and more easily treatable. Malignant malaria can be very severe – even fatal. If benign malaria is suspected it requires immediate medical attention.

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms of malaria usually begin about 10 days after infection but can take up to three months to appear.

Characteristic symptoms of benign malaria include a flu-like fever and chills with a high temperature (up to 40°C), a general feeling of illness, muscular aches, headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

Malignant malaria can result in more severe symptoms including:

  • Low blood pressure;
  • Severe anaemia;
  • Internal bleeding;
  • Jaundice;
  • Convulsions;
  • Coma

How Is Malaria Treated?

Drugs used for treatment of malaria currently include chloroquine, proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine and a combination of atovaquone/proguanil.

In some areas, malaria parasites are becoming resistant to certain drugs therefore it is important to check which drug or combination of drugs are currently recommended for the location being travelled to. In all cases prompt diagnosis and medical assistance is important for successful treatment of malaria.

How Can I Reduce The Risk Of Contracting Malaria?

The risk of malaria to foreign travellers is very real and it is very important to take precautions against it. Anti-malarial drugs are usually taken around one week before the trip, during the trip and for up to one month after the trip, depending on the type of drug.

No anti-malarial drugs are 100% effective so it is important to take a number of precautions to reduce the risk of contracting malaria.

Brown’s Pharmacy’s Top Tips For Preventing Malaria

  • Avoid mosquito bites, especially after sunset. If you are out at night, wear long-sleeved clothing and long trousers;
  • Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spray an insecticide or repellent on them. Insect repellents should also be used on exposed skin. (The most effective repellents contain diethyltoluamide (DEET);
  • Spraying insecticides in the room, burning pyrethroid coils and heating insecticide impregnated tablets all help to control mosquitoes;
  • If sleeping in an unscreened room, or out of doors, a mosquito net (which should be impregnated with insecticide) is a sensible precaution. Portable, lightweight nets are available.;
  • Garlic, vitamin B and ultrasound devices do not prevent bites.

Following these tips cannot guarantee complete protection. If you experience a fever between one week after first exposure and up to one year after your return, you should seek medical attention and tell the doctor that you have been in a malarious area.

Remember you should always check for the most up to date information on what precautions are required as the recommended drugs used to protect against Malaria can change.