What are the initial signs of Malaria?
Malaria is a serious disease found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world and is spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The warmer the climate, the higher the risk of malaria is. This is why the highest rates of malaria are found in sub-saharan Africa and parts of oceania like Papua New Guinea. In these regions, malaria transmission is more intense and can be spread year-round. In more temperate climates, transmission may be more seasonal.
Because of where malaria is most often found, it’s not as big of a risk in the UK. However, cases are reported each year in the UK, most often by people who have recently travelled to malaria endemic regions. Those who travel to sub-saharan Africa are more likely to get serious and/or fatal cases of malaria.
If you will be travelling to a country where malaria is prevalent, it is important to protect yourself because the disease can cause catastrophic effects throughout the body.
Symptoms of Malaria
Once exposed to malaria, it can take anywhere from 10 days to 4 weeks for symptoms to appear. Some people may get symptoms earlier and in rarer cases, the malaria parasite can stay dormant for months or years.
The first symptoms of malaria tend to be flu-like. Soon after, you will get a high-grade fever accompanied by chills, sweating, and shivering. If malaria isn’t treated right away, the symptoms will progressively get worse, causing jaundice, kidney failure, delirium, seizures, coma, and death.Other symptoms of malaria include:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Stomach upset
How to Protect Yourself Against Malaria
Because of the regions where malaria is found, it may not always be possible to get the medical care you need once the symptoms start. That’s why you should keep yourself safe by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites.
First, take measures to expose as little skin as possible. Wear long sleeves and trousers, closed-toe shoes, and hats. You can even get hats with nets on them to protect your face. Also be sure to tuck your shirt into your waistband and to tuck your trousers into your socks.
At night, always sleep under a mosquito net but before you go to sleep, check the net for any holes or damage. Even if it’s warm out, keep your windows closed or use fully intact, undamaged screens on the window so mosquitos can’t get in.
For extra protection, spray yourself with mosquito repellant, even on your clothes and on skin that will be covered by clothing.
Before travelling, look into getting the malaria vaccine. It’s a very effective vaccine but it isn’t typically offered by the NHS. To get it, you will need to visit a pharmacy or travel clinic to pay for it privately.
It is also recommended to take anti-malarial medications before and during your trip. Antimalarials like Malarone, Lariam, and Doxycycline tablets can provide 90-100% protection against malaria when they are taken correctly. It works by preventing the malaria parasite from being able to grow and spread throughout your body if you become infected.