Most people have heard of Malaria and know that it is a dangerous condition that is spread by the mosquito. Malaria is common in areas such as South America, Asia or Africa and so is an important condition to know about if you intend to travel to these places. Malaria is a preventable disease and the main ways that you are able to prevent it is by taking medicines and avoiding mosquito bites. This article will tell you a bit about Malaria and advise you on ways that you can protect yourself from getting it.
What is it?
Malaria causes problems via a tiny parasite that gets introduced into your body by the mosquito. A parasite is a tiny little creature that lives inside the body. When you are bitten by a particular kind of mosquito the parasites can multiply in your blood and make you very sick.
In the beginning stages Malaria can feel very much like having the flu and the most common symptom that you will get is a fever. Other symptoms that might occur include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, or headache. If you are not treated as soon as possible then you may become confused or over excited. If it is very severe then you may even notice that you have fits or may go into a coma. There may be quite a delay from the time that you get bitten until symptoms show and this is generally because it takes a while for the parasite to grow to enough numbers to make you sick.
The absolute best way to prevent Malaria is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito in the first place. However this is not always possible and so there are drugs that you should take before and while you are visiting countries that have a high Malaria rate. There is no treatment that can protect you completely from getting Malaria and treatment may be dangerous of you are pregnant, or if you become pregnant. You should talk to your doctor if you think that this may concern you.
Preventing bite is a key way of preventing Malaria and sleeping inside a mosquito net is a very good idea. Nets that are coated with a chemical that kills mosquitoes are even better. You can also spray your clothes with an insecticide chemical called permethrin to help keep them away. When you do this you should spray your outer clothes, socks and hat. There is a possibility that the spray may make you sore or itchy and if this is the case then you should see your doctor. You should also use insect repellents that you rub on your skin to keep them away. Sometimes one of the chemicals in insect repellents known as DEET may cause you to get confused or irritable, have difficulty sleeping, or get irritated skin if used for a long time. Often burn coils are used to keep the insects away. However there is no good evidence that these help to keep malaria away. There is some evidence to say that sleeping in air conditioned rooms may help keep mosquitoes away and using an electric ceiling fan may also help. You can also get insecticides that you spray around your room, however these are not usually recommended by doctors. It is possible to avoid going out at night when most bites happen, however this is inconvenient and may make no difference. Some people think that it is better to wear light rather than dark clothing, as insects prefer landing on dark surfaces.
There are many medicines that are recommended to prevent Malaria in various parts of the world. The recommendations change over time. There are some drugs that you take once every day and others that you take once every week. You most often need to begin these medications before you travel, and you must keep taking them for several weeks after you get back. You should check with your doctor which drugs you should take and ask them how to take them. There are two medications known as Atovaquone and Proguanil and these are used in combination to help prevent malaria. There are good studies that show you are unlikely to get malaria if you take these medications. However there are side effects and they include an upset stomach, backache, dizziness, mouth ulcers, or stomach ache. Taking a combination of Chloroquine and Proguanil also helps to prevent malaria. In fact Chloroquine tablets used to be used on their own; however some of the malaria parasites have grown resistant to it. Doxycycline is another medication that can help you to prevent malaria in countries where the other drugs do not work. However there are side effects associated with this medication such as skin problems, cough, upset stomach, or an irritated vagina. Mefloquine is another medication that is used in the prevention of Malaria. In many studies it appeared to protect people completely; however there is a risk of serious side effects such as mood changes, disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating, or strange dreams. You cannot take this medication if you have a mental illness or epilepsy.
If you are unfortunate and happen to catch Malaria then you most likely will not be aware of this until you get back home from your travels. Malaria can take anywhere from 1 week to 18 months before you start to notice symptoms and become ill. In most cases people do get symptoms before three months of getting bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite. If you notice a fever after coming back from Africa, Asia, or South America then you must see your doctor immediately and tell them where you have been. Most people do recover completely following a Malaria infection; however people do die if they do not get treatment. This risk is greater in elderly people. It is rare in this day and age for people to die in countries such as the USA where medical treatment is available; however it is one of the leading causes of death worldwide as treatment is not available in many developing countries. Malaria should not return if it is treated correctly the first time.