How can I protect myself from malaria?
If you are planning to travel to an area where you are at risk of contracting malaria, it is important to take steps to lower the risk of catching the infection and, if you do experience symptoms, it is important to seek medical help and get treated straight away.
You should speak to a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at least 4 weeks before travelling. They will check the risk of malaria in the areas you are travelling to, ask questions about your trip and ask if you have any underlying health problems. They may prescribe you antimalarial tablets that will help to lower the risk of getting malaria if you are bitten by an infected mosquito.
Some common antimalarial tablets you could be prescribed include:
How do malaria tablets work?
Malaria tablets work by killing the parasites that cause the infection while they are still developing e in the red blood cells and the liver. The treatment will need to be taken before you intend to travel in order to get into your system and be effective.
How effective are malaria tablets?
If taken as prescribed, antimalarial drugs can be very effective but they do not offer 100% protection. Although antimalarial tablets do not stop the malaria parasite from entering the body, they do help to stop the infection from developing and causing symptoms.
How to take malaria tablets
Antimalarial tablets should be taken according to your doctor’s instructions.
Doxycycline should be taken 1 to 2 days before travelling, then daily while you are in a malaria area and for 4 weeks after your return. It is recommended that you take doxycycline with food because it is less likely to make you feel sick.
Atovaquone and proguanil, which is more commonly known as the brand Malarone, is taken for 1 to 2 days before travelling to a malaria area, then daily for the entire duration of your stay and for 7 days after you leave the malaria area.
When taking chloroquine you will need to begin taking the medication 1 week before travelling. You should take 2 chloroquine tablets once a week, on the same day each week. So, if you take the first 2 tablets on a Monday, you should take the next 2 tablets the following week on a Monday and so on. You will need to do this for 1 week before you travel, weekly while you are away, and for 4 weeks after your return.
Tips and tricks to prevent mosquito bites
There are several precautionary steps you can take to help protect yourself from mosquito bites if you are travelling to a malaria area, these include:
- taking antimalarial medication as prescribed and finishing the course
- using a good mosquito repellent that contains at least 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide)
- always wearing trousers and long-sleeved clothing at night
- sleeping under a mosquito net
- always wearing shoes when outdoors
- try to avoid camping near water because mosquitoes are often found near water
- keep doors and windows closed at night or put thin netting or door beads over them to stop mosquitoes from getting in
Is there a vaccine for malaria?
There is a vaccine available for malaria but it is for use among children living in sub-Saharan Africa and for other regions that have a moderate to high transmission rate of Plasmodium falciparum.
The vaccine is not available for travellers to malaria areas but there are things you can do to protect yourself by following the ABCD approach:
- A = awareness of risk. Is there a risk of getting malaria in the country you intend to visit? If so, is it a high, medium, or low risk?
- B = Bite prevention. Protect yourself against mosquito bites by using mosquito nets, wearing appropriate clothing, and using insect repellent.
- C = Chemoprophylaxis or take the antimalarials you are prescribed.
- D = Diagnosis and prompt treatment. If you think you may have malaria, it’s important that you are seen by a doctor straight away to get early treatment.