Before You Travel – The Great Malaria Debate
Posted in: Featured
On occasion we post important content from our book, The NuNomad. This post is one such excerpt.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to simply follow conventional wisdom. Okay, aside from the obvious choice in my lifestyle design, I’m referring to inoculations and prophylactics that most travelers are recommended to take.
Oh, you’re one of them! you snigger.
Not so. Am I one to not take aspirin even though I have a major headache? Hell no, I hate pain; and aspirin works for me. But, I am cognizant of the fact that taking any medication when not really necessary is generally considered not a smart thing to do. Aside from the negative side effects the accumulative use of any drug may have on a person’s body, extended use of a drug may make you resistant to the drug’s ability to heal you. That’s why, and my previous article on recommended immunizations notwithstanding, I often accept the risks of not taking certain prophylactic measures. The annual flu shot is one such preventative I shy away from. Another (which is the topic of this current discussion) is anti-Malarials.
Does this make me a risk taker? No, I don’t think so. I do take appropriate steps to avoid infection.
Most medical professionals agree that the best way to avoid getting diseases like Malaria, which are transmitted by mosquitoes, is to avoid being bitten by them. This is done by simply wearing protective clothing (long sleeves, pants and socks as opposed to a beekeeper’s uniform). When you sleep, use a mosquito net and/or burn a mosquito coil or plug in your electric mosquito pad heater. Having a fan blowing directly on you also helps a great deal.
Now, let’s look at a few points.
The pharmaceutical option:
Aside from protecting yourself from mosquito bites, there are the prophylactic options, which I’d alluded to a moment ago, at your disposal: Chloroquine Phosphate or Mefloquine. These medications are widely available, but provide only partial protection and can have significant side effects.
In some parts of the world anti-malarials simply don’t work. Moreover, many medical professionals say that if you contact Malaria while taking the pills, it can be more difficult to treat.
If choose to take anti-malarials and you experience severe side-effects from the use of them, then you may need to discontinue their use. Do note that these medicines are not effective if taken intermittently. Also, the exact medicine recommended is different for different places due to resistant strains of the Malaria parasite.
If Malaria is contracted:
Treatment for the disease in areas where it is prevalent is often good because of local doctors’ experience with the disease. Luckily, Malaria tablets are far cheaper in countries where malaria is a problem. (They’re quite expensive in the U.S. and European countries.)
My opinion (and it’s only an opinion) is that if you plan to be in a high-risk Malaria area for three months or less, then go ahead and take the pills. The short term use of them should be tolerable. If, however, you find yourself in a Malaria-prevalent area for more than three months, then don’t.
You may wish to research this subject further, consult your immunologist (who will, no doubt, confuse you even more), the CDC, Internet, and books such as Staying Healthy in Asia, Africa & Latin America.
goes to Dr. Nick Walters, MD tropical and preventive medicine specialist at Mission Hospital, Bangkok, for his help on this article.)