Antimalarials for Travel

22nd January 2020

Planning a trip away? Depending on where you’re heading, you might be at risk of malaria. And that means it’s a good idea to take antimalarial medication to protect yourself.

That’s where we can help. Once you know when and where you’re going, book an appointment with us. We’ll make sure you take the right medication so that you can get on with enjoying your travels.

In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to malaria and how to keep yourself safe.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a tropical disease that’s common in many areas across the world.

The disease is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium that is mainly carried by female mosquitoes. All it takes is a single bite to pass the parasite from a mosquito to a person.

What are antimalarials?

There is no vaccine to protect against malaria. Instead, we use antimalarial medicines to prevent and also treat malaria.

Once the parasite enters the body, antimalarials stop it in its tracks, preventing infection and any symptoms.

Do I need antimalarials?

Antimalarials can reduce your risk of malaria by about 90%. So if you’re planning to visit an area where there’s a malaria risk, it’s important that you take them.

Malaria is a widespread disease across over 100 countries. It is found in large parts of Africa, Asia, Central and South America, as well as in areas of the Middle East and some Pacific islands.

You can check if you need to take antimalarials here. If you have any questions, be on the safe side and speak to your GP.

The malaria parasite is always changing. So even if you’re revisiting somewhere you’ve been a lot, you still need to protect yourself by taking antimalarial medication.

Which antimalarial medication is right for me?

Finding the antimalarial medication that’s right for you depends on:

  • Where you’re going
  • Your age
  • If you’ve taken antimalarial medication before
  • If you’re pregnant
  • If you have any allergies
  • If you currently take any medication, including hormonal contraception
  • If you have any other health conditions, mental or physical

There are four different types of antimalarial medication available:

  • Atovaquone and proguanil
  • Doxycycline
  • Mefloquine
  • Chloroquine and proguanil

They vary in their side effects, whether they need to be taken once a day or once a week, how long you need to take them for, and who they are suitable for.

Even if you’ve taken antimalarials before, you might need a different medication for repeat visits or trips to other areas.

Do I need to see a doctor to get antimalarial medication?

Different antimalarial medications are suited to different people and places. Speak to your doctor to make sure you take the right one for you.

Although chloroquine and proguanil can be bought at a pharmacy, they are not usually recommended as they no longer protect against the most common type of the parasite. All other antimalarial medication needs a prescription from a doctor.

Don’t rely on antimalarials

As long as they are taken correctly, antimalarial medications are effective at preventing malaria. But it’s also important to be aware of other precautions you can take as well as the symptoms of the disease.

You can prevent being bitten by a mosquito by:

  • Using an intact mosquito net that has been treated with insecticide
  • Applying insect repellent onto your skin frequently
  • Wearing light, loose-fitting trousers and long-sleeved shirts that cover your skin
  • Keeping doors and windows shut
  • Using air conditioning

The symptoms of malaria are:

  • High temperature of 38C or above
  • Headaches
  • Feeling hot but also shivery
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue

Malaria symptoms are difficult to spot as they’re very similar to what you might expect from the flu. You’ll normally notice symptoms between 7 and 18 days after becoming infected. But sometimes symptoms don’t appear for up to a year. If you’re at all worried, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.