Malaria: What to know

by YAS
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Mosquito in action
Mosquito in action
  • Review all medication options prior to selecting one
  • Don't be afraid to tell your doctor if you don't like their choice of anti-malarial medication.
  • The choice of antimalarial depends upon the destination and the patient, i.e. medical problems, medications and past experience with anti-malarials.
  • If possible, get a few extra days worth of medication, should you need to double up.

Malaria medication options

There are several anti-malarial medications on the market and what you choose depends on how you react to the medication and what your tolerance is for dosage requirements. I’ve been to several countries that are high on the malaria-risk scale. I am poaching this next paragraph from, as they say it much better than I could. Antimalarial medications do not prevent infection with the malaria parasite, rather, they suppress the symptoms of the infection by killing the parasites either in the liver or as they leave the liver and enter the bloodstream. This should be considered a good thing when one realizes that headache, coma and death are three of the symptoms. There is no perfect antimalarial - i.e. one that is 100% effective and always without side effects.

The choice of antimalarial depends upon the destination and the patient, i.e. medical problems, medications and past experience with antimalarials.

Mefloquine, Doxycycline and Malarone

The first medication they mention is Mefloquine. I have not tried it but understand there are some issues. The second is Doxycycline (Vibramycin). I did use this on my trip to India and would probably not take it again for a few reasons. Firstly, one cannot have dairy within two hours and if it’s taken on an empty stomach it can cause stomach upset. I like to take my meds first thing the morning. I also like a big latte. Not good. So, I tried skipping the latte once and just taking it on an empty stomach. I felt horrible, as if I were going to vomit. Also, it’s such a strong antibiotic that they recommend you not lie down for at least 15 min…No thanks.

Secondly and most importantly, it is photosensitive. I had on factor 50 and was burning after 10 minutes. Normally, a SPF 25 would suffice. It was very difficult to see the sites, even when wearing a hat, while on this medication. Not everyone has the same sensitivity as I did, though, to exposure to sun, so this might work for some.

The third mentioned is Malarone. This happens to be my drug of choice, but it comes at a price. I like it because I only have to take this pill once a day, and I can be in direct sunlight with no problems. Personally, I would recommend Malarone, but know this does not suit everyone’s budget. When I was in Madagascar, I did a lot of trekking in damp, cool forests. I had on three-quarter length trousers and, as a result, my calves, particularly my left one, was chewed to bits. I didn’t think much of it as I was on Malarone. However, when we reached Tanzania, I knew something was wrong. My body ached, my head ached, my eyes hurt when I looked left or right. I had malaria. Luckily, we told the doctor we’d be gone for four more days than we really were. I was able to double up on the meds and after a few days, I felt much better.
I recommend getting a few extra days’ worth of medication, if budget allows.

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