Malaria medication: your questions answered

World Mosquito Day is celebrated every year on August 20th to commemorate Sir Ronald Ross’ discovery in 1897 that female mosquitoes (later identified from the genus Anopheles) transmit malaria to humans. Since Ross’ discovery over 120 years ago, we certainly know more about malaria and how to prevent it, but there’s still a long way to go. Malaria continues to be endemic (regularly found) in many countries and due to increases in international travel, particularly to tropical areas, the number of malaria infections in travellers has been increasing. Misconceptions about the severity of malaria, how to prevent it, and areas of risk can lead travellers to arrive at their destination inadequately prepared and unprotected. Malaria can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites and using appropriate antimalarial medication. However, for even the most seasoned traveller, knowing when and how to use antimalarial medication can be confusing. In this blog, we address common misunderstandings and questions that travellers have about antimalarials. Should I take antimalarial medication? How do I get a prescription for it? Risk of malaria exists in in tropical and subtropical regions near the equator including most areas of Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America. Popular tourist destinations like Brazil, Cambodia, Kenya, Panama, South Africa, and Thailand all have areas with risk of malaria. Do you know if your destination has risk? Find out here. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider or travel clinic at least 6 weeks before you depart. Based on your health status and the risk of malaria at your destination, your doctor will prescribe antimalarial medication, mosquito-bite avoidance measures, or nothing at all. Be advised that some antimalarial medication can be costly, so make sure to budget for it when planning your trip. Other people I’m travelling with are taking different antimalarial medication or none at all. Should I change or stop taking my prescribed medication? At your destination you might encounter other travellers who received different malaria prevention advice. Despite this, it’s important to stick to the antimalarial medication you were prescribed for the duration of your trip. Here’s why: Antimalarial medication is prescribed based on individual risk. This can vary according to your health status, medication you are currently taking, destination, trip itinerary, type of travel, planned activities, length of stay, accommodations, and season. Different countries also have different malaria prevention and treatment guidelines, so a traveller from Germany may follow different prevention measures than a traveller from Canada. In short, it’s common for travellers to follow different antimalarial medication regimes, but you should not discontinue or change the regime you were prescribed without the advice of a doctor. Why do I have to take antimalarial medication for so long? The female Anopheles mosquito bites from dusk to dawn and does not hum or leave a welt at the site of the bite, so you won’t know if you have been bitten or not. Antimalarial medication works by killing the malaria parasites during their development stage in the liver … Continue reading Malaria medication: your questions answered