Malaria is a tropical parasitic disease that kills more people than any other infectious disease, excluding tuberculosis. While there are four species of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is by far the most lethal type, responsible for the majority of malaria deaths. Anyone travelling to a country where malaria is present may potentially contract the disease. Malaria is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to catch malaria.
Anti – malaria medication fit into five main regimes. Medication required will vary according to destination. Anti-malarials are not available on NHS prescription; some medications are available without a prescription, but Mefloquine, Malarone and Doxycycline require private prescriptions.
In summary, the five main regimes of anti-malarial drugs are as follows (adult doses). However, you should always obtain individually tailored advice:
- Chloroquine 2 x 250mg Avloclor tablet weekly. Start 1 week before travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Atovaquone/Proguanil 1 x 250/100mg Atovaquone/Proguanil tablet daily. Start 1-2 days before travel until 7 days after leaving the area.
- Mefloquine 1 x 250mg Lariam tablet weekly. Start 10 days before travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Proguanil 2 x 100mg Palurine tablets daily. Start 7 days prior to travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
- Doxycycline 1 x 100mg Doxycycline tablet/capsule daily. Start 1-2 days prior to travel until 4 weeks after leaving the area.
Generally, anti-malarial tablets are well tolerated. However, they can cause stomach upsets, visual disturbances and headaches. These side-effects can be reduced if medication is taken after food and with plenty of water. It is also very important that you read and follow the instructions included with the medication you have purchased.
If you suffer from any liver, heart or kidney problem, psoriasis, epilepsy or previous depression, or are likely to be pregnant or breast feeding then please ask for advice from a doctor prior to taking any anti-malaria tablets.
Serious reactions are rare but these may include: severe anxiety, depression, fits, hallucinations and palpitations. Stop medication but seek professional advice immediately to obtain an alternative.
Avoid Mosquito Bites
Our travel clinics stock a wide range of insect nets and mosquito repellents
- Use insect repellents containing DEET on skin and clothing.
- Use screened accommodation and keep windows and doors closed.
- Use a mosquito net, preferably impregnated with insecticide.
- Wear long sleeves and trousers between dusk and dawn. It may help to wear wrist and ankle protectors soaked in DEET.
- Use a vaporizing mat or coil to minimize mosquitoes in living accommodation or stay in air-conditioned accommodation.
Recognizing Malaria Illness
Flu type symptoms, fever, diarrhoea and joint pains after the 1st week in a malaria region and for up to a year after your return home may be malaria. If you become unwell, you should seek medical attention promptly and you may need a blood test.