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What is malaria?

Malaria is a serious and sometimes life-threatening blood disease, caused by infected mosquitos. It can cause flu-like symptoms and if not treated promptly, it can reproduce inside your bloodstream, eventually killing you. 

How do you get malaria?

Malaria is caused by a specific parasite known as Plasmodium. Plasmodium is transmitted through mosquitos (mainly the ones that bite at night). Once an infected mosquito has bitten a human, the parasites travel to the liver, where they mature. After a few days, the parasites then enter the bloodstream where they multiply and infect red blood cells. 

Is malaria dangerous?

If treated, malaria can be cured. It is estimated that 300-500 million people contract malaria every year and around 1 million of those affected die from the disease. It is important to get treated quickly if you contract malaria, as it can infect red blood cells causing severe anaemia and a reduction in oxygen flow as well as blocking the immune response. Luckily, in most cases, fast treatment will prevent death and taking anti-malarials significantly reduce the risks of contracting malaria in the first place. 

How can you avoid getting malaria?

If travelling to an area where there is a high risk of malaria, the most effective method of prevention is to take anti-malarials. They help to reduce the risk of infection by around 90%. Other methods to reduce the risk of contracting malaria would be to cover up at night, use anti-mosquito repelleants and sleep in a mosquito net. Closing windows and using air conditioning also help to keep mosquitos away.

Do I need to take malaria tablets?

If you are travelling to an area where malaria is prevalent, it is highly recommended to take anti-malaria tablets. The type of tablets you take, depend on the area you are travelling to, so it is important to visit the fitfortravel (link) website to see which type of anti-malarials you require. 

What are the symptoms of malaria?

Usually, the time taken from being infected to when symptoms begin to appear is around 7-18 days, however, this can vary and it can take up to one year for symptoms to develop. 

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • ​High temperature/fever
  • Shaky chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Bloody stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

Can you die from malaria?

Malaria is one of the world's most deadly diseases. According to Unicef, around 300-600 million people suffer from malaria each year, with over 1 million of them dying from it. Malaria kills red blood cells which are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body. This can lead to a number of complications, but ultimately means that vital organs such as the kidneys and the brain are starved of oxygen, which leads to death. With cerebral malaria, malaria parasites enter the brain causing it to swell, which can lead to complications such as brain damage, seizures, comas and death. 

The good news is, however, is that malaria can be prevented using anti-malarials. If caught early, malaria also has a high survival rate with no long-term complications. This is why it is extremely important not to ignore any malaria warning signs within one year of your return. 

Which malaria tablets should I take?

Which anti-malarial tablets you should take, depend on where you are travelling to. If you visit the NHS Fit For Travel website and enter your destination, it will provide a list of anti-malarial tablets are suitable for your destination. Many people ask what the best anti-malarial tablet is. The truth is that all anti-malarial tablets are as good as each other. What differs are the side-effects, the dosing regime (e.g. one daily, or weekly etc.) and the price. 

Visit the NHS Fit For Travel website to see which anti malarial tablets you should take. If you are unsure about which tablets to go for, get in touch with one of our friendly pharmacy staff for advice.