Anti-Malarials

Anti-Malarials

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Malaria is a serious illness which is generally treatable if it is caught early enough, but can be fatal if you are pregnant, under 5 years old, elderly, or have immune system deficiencies. The best way to avoid catching malaria is by avoiding countries which are high risk areas for the illness, but if you are going to be going to the area, you should take preventative measures. There is no 100% effective protection against malaria, but most antimalarials are around 90% effective. You can buy anti-malarial tablets from an online doctor such as iMeds. You should also use another kind of protection, such as an anti-insect spray or sleeping under a mosquito net. The illness is carried by mosquitoes which are mostly around at dusk, so you should close all doors and windows tightly before the evening to make sure your sleeping area is mosquito-free. Malaria begins to show symptoms as a fever, but it needs to be treated as quickly as possible so you should speak to your doctor and inform them if you have traveled to a high risk country.

Malaria is a potentially fatal illness that is eradicated in Western Europe, but still prevails in areas of Africa, Asia and South and Central America. It is usually harmless if it diagnosed and treated early enough, but as with any illness, prevention is better than cure.

Anti-malarials

Malaria is a serious illness which is generally treatable if it is caught early enough, but can be fatal if you are pregnant, under 5 years old, elderly, or have immune system deficiencies. The best way to avoid catching malaria is by avoiding countries which are high risk areas for the illness, but if you are going to be going to the area, you should take preventative measures. There is no 100% effective protection against malaria, but most antimalarials are around 90% effective. You can buy anti-malarial tablets from an online doctor such as iMeds. You should also use another kind of protection, such as an anti-insect spray or sleeping under a mosquito net. The illness is carried by mosquitoes which are mostly around at dusk, so you should close all doors and windows tightly before the evening to make sure your sleeping area is mosquito-free. Malaria begins to show symptoms as a fever, but it needs to be treated as quickly as possible so you should speak to your doctor and inform them if you have traveled to a high risk country.

Malaria is a potentially fatal illness that is eradicated in Western Europe, but still prevails in areas of Africa, Asia and South and Central America. It is usually harmless if it diagnosed and treated early enough, but as with any illness, prevention is better than cure.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease common in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, such as Africa and Asia. While it can be treatable, it can also be very dangerous and even fatal in certain circumstances. Malaria is particularly threatening to the very young, the elderly, and among women who are pregnant or those who have immune system deficiencies. If you know you are going on holiday to a high-risk area, you should research the symptoms and preventative measures of malaria before going so you can be as prepared as possible. It is advised you use more than one type of protection as none of them are 100% effective.

What are the symptoms of malaria?

You won't notice the initial symptoms of malaria right after you've been bitten as there is an incubation period. This usually lasts 7 to 18 days, but in some circumstances can last a year or even longer. The initial symptoms of malaria are very similar to those of a fever and other non-fatal illnesses, but if you have been to a high-risk country you should not dismiss it as an innocuous illness. The best practice is to go to your doctor as soon as possible and make them aware that you have been potentially exposed to malaria. If it cannot be prevented, early diagnosis is the best way to reduce the risk of malaria. Symptoms of malaria include:

  • Headaches
  • Extreme or profuse sweating
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A fever or a very high temperature
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain

The fever generally occurs in 48 to 72 hour cycles of chills, fever and sweating. Each cycle begins as the blood cells which contain the parasite burst. There are five main strains of malaria with their own characteristics and severities, and the treatment you will require depends on what type of malaria you are suffering from. The strain of malaria you are suffering from will be identified with a blood test.

What is severe malaria?

If it is treated early enough, malaria is not usually fatal among healthy individuals. However, certain strains may progress to severe or complicated malaria if not treated quickly enough. This is most likely if you have been infected with Plasmodium falciparum. This is where malaria becomes a medical emergency, as it can affect your brain, kidney, blood and lungs. Complications can begin with an hours or days of the first feverish symptoms showing. The complications can include:

  • Anaemia - Among the general population, anaemia is a fairly common condition. It is characterised by your red blood cells not being able to carry enough oxygen, which makes you weak and fatigued. The malaria parasite can destroy your red blood cells making you feel drowsy and weak.
  • Cerebral malaria - This is where the brain swells and leads to potentially long-lasting neurological damage including seizures or a coma. Cerebral malaria is the most common cause of death from the parasite.
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver problems which lead to jaundice - Jaundice causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
  • Pulmonary oedema - This is the medical name for a buildup of fluid in the lungs, which can then cause breathing problems.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) - This is a potentially fatal condition where the lungs cannot provide the body with enough oxygen to function properly.
  • Severe dehydration
  • Swelling and potential rupturing of the spleen

You are most likely to suffer from complications with malaria if you belong to a particularly vulnerable group, such as:

  • If you are pregnant
  • Babies and children under 5 years old
  • If you are elderly or frail
  • If you have a weakened immune system (because of HIV or AIDS, for instance)

What if I catch malaria when I’m pregnant?

Catching malaria when you're pregnant is especially dangerous, and could have added complications for yourself and the baby. These include:

  • Premature birth
  • Still birth or miscarriage
  • A low weight at birth which can lead to further complications such as having a higher risk of infection
  • Death of the mother

Because of these additional complications, you should avoid travelling to high-risk areas whilst you're pregnant if it is at all avoidable.

How do you get malaria?

Malaria is a type of parasite which is carried by mosquitoes in certain countries. It is only carried by the female of the species. When a mosquito bites someone, it sucks a bit of their blood. If this person is infected with malaria, that means that the mosquito can pass the parasite on to the next person it bites. Once the parasite is in your bloodstream it will go straight to your liver. This is where the parasite multiplies, and the incubation period begins. This can last anywhere between a few weeks or a year. The parasite causes its damage by invading your red blood cells, which are the ones that carry oxygen around your body. The parasites lay eggs inside the cells and multiply until the blood cell bursts. Each time your blood cells burst, you get a round of illness: chills, fever and sweating. Each cycle lasts around 6-12 hours.

What types of malaria are there?

There are five types of Plasmodium, the parasite which causes malaria. Although the strain of malaria you're suffering from can be identified with a blood test, you can help your doctor identify it by informing them where you've been travelling as some strains only exist in certain regions.

  • Plasmodium falciparum is the strain of parasite which is the most dangerous and can lead to potentially fatal consequences. It is the most common type of malaria, and is mostly found in Africa.
  • Plasmodium vivax is usually found in Asia and South America. Although it causes milder symptoms than Plasmodium falciparum, it can stay in the liver for up to 3 years. This means you're more likely to suffer a relapse if you've caught this strain of malaria, even if you've not been travelling for a while.
  • Plasmodium ovale is another strain of the parasite which can remain dormant in your liver for years, although it is less common. It’s usually found in West Africa.
  • Plasmodium malariae is a less common and less powerful strain, usually only found in Africa.
  • Plasmodium knowlesi is another uncommon and weak strain, usually found in Southeast Asia.

What is a high risk area?

A high risk area is a region of the world where malaria is prominent and not eradicated. There are no hard and fast rules as to where it is and isn't safe, and it is always best to be protected just in case. As a general rule, sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Asia are the areas with the highest risk. If you're unsure if the area you are travelling to has a high risk of malaria, you can check the Fit For Travel website. This will also provide you with information about anything else you should be cautious of when travelling.

If you have lived a long time in an area of the world that has a high risk of malaria, you may have developed a partial immunity. However, when you live away from that country for several years, your immunity will begin to fade. If you return to see family or friends, you should take all the precautions you can. It's important to remember that no one is fully immune from malaria, and you should take a multi pronged approach to protect yourself. At present, there isn't a widely used vaccine available against malaria, so you need to do your research before travelling and be very cautious.

How do I avoid getting malaria?

The most reliable way to avoid getting malaria is to avoid any countries considered high risk for the illness. You should be especially careful about where you visit if you suffer from HIV or AIDS, are pregnant, or are travelling with babies or children under five or someone who is elderly or frail. Even if you do not fit any of these categories, you should still take special precautions if visiting a high-risk area. It's recommended that you use anti-malarial medicines and physical barrier structures including a mosquito net, as well as anti-mosquito spray where possible.

Mosquitoes are most likely to bite you around dusk time. Make sure you close all doors and windows very firmly before dusk for maximum protection during the night. Before you travel, speak to your doctor about the best antimalarial for you take. This will be dependent on where you're travelling to.

How is malaria treated?

If you get a fever while on holiday or within a few years of coming back from a high-risk area, contact your doctor even if you think you're only suffering from a normal fever. Your doctor will do a blood test to check if you're suffering from malaria, and if so which strain. If your blood tests come back negative, you may still be required to stay in hospital for a few days and have more tests to be absolutely certain. There are now many types of drugs used to treat malaria and most can be easily purchased from pharmacies, including online pharmacies.

What anti-malarials can I buy?

The types of anti-malarial which can potentially be bought by members of the public include Lariam, Doxycycline, Malarone and Maloff Protect. If you are planning to go somewhere that is a high-risk area for malaria, you should see your doctor well in advance of travelling as you will need to take some medication before you go away. You will also need to continue the course of treatment during your stay and for a short time afterwards. It is important to continue taking the antimalarials until the end of your program, even when you're back from your holiday.

Some of the medications used to prevent malaria can also be taken to treat it if you end up catching the illness. For this reason, it's very important you remember what type of medication you have been prescribed, so if you are suffering from malaria several years later, your doctor will know that the parasite is resistant to that type of medication. Where possible keep the box and patient information leaflet so you don't forget this information.