Managing Malaria

Malaria can be a life-threatening disease. We offer advice on how to protect your family
By Tamlyn Vincent

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One bite from a mosquito carrying malaria parasites could put you at risk of contracting this potentially fatal disease. While malaria is more common in tropical and subtropical climates, especially during the rainy season, it is advisable to always be prepared when travelling to a malaria region.
 
In South Africa, malaria is restricted to parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
 
The first signs of malaria usually appear 10–14 days after one leaves a high-risk area, says Nelspruit GP Dr Frans Theron. People may get flu-like symptoms with a headache, which can progress to aches and pains, and sometimes abdominal pains, says Theron.
 
Dr Deena Govender, of the Umhlanga Sports and Travel Clinic, says anyone who develops a fever after visiting a malaria region should assume they have the disease and immediately see a doctor.
 
Treatment depends on a number of factors, such as whether it is for an adult or child, what medicine has been taken or the number of malaria parasites in the blood, says Theron. Treatment is therefore individualised, and it is important to see a malaria expert.
 
If you do have to visit a malaria area, it is advisable to take prophylactics. There are various medicines available, and they need to be prescribed. Mefloquine (Larium) needs to be taken for six weeks after returning from the trip and can have bad side effects, such as depression or convulsions, says Theron. Doxycycline is an antibiotic that, while effective against malaria, should not be taken by pregnant women or children. Theron recommends taking Malarone, which is now available for children, and needs to be taken for just one week after returning. It also has the least recorded side effects. Whichever prophylactic you do take, it is important that you complete the course.
 
People living in malaria regions may build up a partial immunity over time, but Theron warns that as they can still contract the disease, they should also take prophylactics. There are some that can be taken for a year.
 
Mozzies and minors
 
Children tend to be more at risk of contracting malaria, “because their immune systems aren’t as developed, making the disease more serious for children”, says Theron.
 
Govender advises children and pregnant women to avoid malaria areas. Children weighing 15kg and more can take prophylactics, says Theron. Govender advises parents who plan on giving their children prophylactics to be well informed and aware of the options, and it’s best to visit a travel clinic before going away.
 
Be prepared
 
As anti-malarial medication is not 100 percent effective, it is advisable to take other precautions:
 
  • Use a repellent.
  • Spray your sleeping area and keep it closed for several hours before going to sleep.
  • Use proper screening on your doors and windows.
  • Use a mosquito net, which you can also spray with repellent. Keep the net tied up during the day to stop mosquitoes getting in.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Although malarial mosquitoes tend to come out more at dawn and dusk, they can be found in dark places at any time of day, says Theron. Keep your children out of dense vegetation and spray under beds.

Comments

Anonymous wrote 7 years 44 weeks ago

It should also be noted that malaria meds taken before you visit a malaria region hide traces of malaria should you contract the disease. Therefore it is of vital importance to tell your doctors if you have been to a malaria area and taken meds. It might take up to 3 blood tests before the malaria is picked up!

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