Malaria is a parasitic infection that occurs mostly in tropical and sub-tropical Third World countries. The parasites causing this disease are transmitted by the malaria mosquito. Malaria can be very severe. It could even lead to death if not treated in time. One of the ways to prevent malaria is by taking malaria pills. There is no malaria vaccination.
I’m going on a trip and I’m going to pack…
Malaria is contracted quite often by people who travel to regions where the disease is common without taking the necessary precautions. As said before, taking malaria pills is one of those precautionary measures. If taken as prescribed, this anti-malaria medication minimises the chance that you’ll get infected. If it happens anyway, the malaria pills make sure that it takes longer for any (possible) dangerous complications to set in. This gives you more time to effectively treat the disease .
Several kinds of malaria pills
If you are travelling to a destination where malaria is common, your GP will prescribe malaria pills for you to take while you’re travelling. There are several kinds of malaria pills. Which kind is prescribed to you depends on several factors:
- Which area you’re travelling to
- The duration of your stay
- The nature of the trip and the expected risk
- Your overall health
- Other medication you may be using
Malaria pills available are:
- Lariam, active substance: mefloquine
- Malarone, active substances: atovaquon and proguanil
- Paludrine, active substance: proguanil
These malaria pills differ in:
- The frequency and duration of use: taken daily or weekly up to a week or month after departure from the malarial area;
- Individual sensitivity to side effects
Nowadays, Malarone and Lariam are prescribed most often.
Side effects of malaria pills
When taking malaria pills, you could develop side effects. They can be so serious that you have to stop taking the pills. Never do this without consulting a doctor. We strongly advise you to keep taking malaria pills for as long you are residing in a malarial region.
The side effects depend partly on the kind of malaria pill you’re taking:
- Malarone can cause headaches, stomach problems, nausea, vomiting and coughing. In some cases, it causes canker sores (aphthous ulcers) in the mouth
- Lariam can cause sleep disorders and psychological problems. If you have been treated for psychological problems before, we advise against lariam. Other possible side effects are: nausea, vomiting and dizziness
- Paludrine rarely has any side effects. Sometimes these malaria pills cause hair loss and canker sores (aphthous ulcers) in the mouth
- Doxycycline can cause allergic reactions. For example, your skin can become more sensitive to sunlight. Women will be more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections. Stomach problems are also a possibility
Got malaria anyway?
As said earlier in this article, you may contract malaria despite taking malaria pills. Although the chance is very small, the consequences can be severe. This is why you should always be alert for the symptoms and make sure you get checked immediately when in doubt.
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Last updated on October 17, 2016.