Malaria is a disease that can threaten the life of a person and for this reason, you need to know about prevention of malaria. Malaria is transmitted by an anopheles mosquito that is infected. This type of mosquito carries the malaria causing parasite known as plasmodium. Once it bites you, the parasite is left in your blood stream and that is when you start experiencing the symptoms of malaria. Upon entry into your blood, the plasmodium parasite goes to the liver and starts to mature. After maturity, which takes several days, the mature parasites get back into the bloodstream and attack the red blood cells. Within 72 hours, reactions on the red blood cells start to take place. This is because the parasites multiply and the cells start to burst open. When this process continues, the symptoms start showing up. This article provides information about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of malaria.
There are four types of parasites that spread malaria. They include Plasmodium vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. falciparum. The one that causes the most severe form of malaria is Falciparum. If you are bitten by a mosquito that has the parasite, you could also die because of the severity involved.
The parasites that cause malaria are mainly found in tropical and subtropical climate regions. These are the places where malaria is prevalent. Often, people who do not live in these areas contract malaria by visiting them. Malaria can be spread from the mother to the child when giving birth and this is known as congenital malaria. Malaria can also be transmitted through blood for instance through the sharing of needles, blood transfusion and organ transplant. Knowing about malaria symptoms and treatments can help you avoid complications from this illness.
Note: The parasite P. falciparum can give a very bad infection and your life could be in danger.
Signs and symptoms of malaria
The early symptoms of malaria usually show up between the period of 10 days and 4 weeks after the infection. In some cases, the symptoms may take quite some time before they develop. Some parasites have the ability of being dormant for quite long and you might find it hard to know whether or not you could suffer from malaria in the future.
Listed below are the symptoms of malaria;
- Shaking chills that can range from moderate to severe.
- High fever: The fever can be so intense that it makes you weak.
- A lot of sweating.
- Abdominal pain.
- Stool that is bloody.
- Muscle pain.
Note: These symptoms occur when the malaria parasite has already began spreading to other organs in the body. You should go to the hospital early enough to avoid further complications.
Malaria diagnosis and treatment
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you are supposed to visit the doctor. Among the things that the doctor will do to diagnose is to ask you about your health history. This is because some symptoms of malaria are also visible from other diseases. The doctor will also want to know if you may have travelled recently and to where. Chances are that if you visit a place that experiences subtropical or tropical climate, you can get the malaria parasite.
Another thing that the doctor will observe is the liver or spleen. If there is some enlargement, then you most likely have malaria. Further blood tests might also be carried out to establish the existence of malaria in your body. Other results that can be got out of the blood tests include the type of malaria you have, if the type of parasite is resistant to specific drugs, if you are anemic because of the disease and other organs that have been affected.
Malaria is treatable. However, if the condition is not attended to on time, you might suffer from the complications listed below;
- Cerebral Malaria: This is a complication that occurs when the blood vessels of the brain swell. They swell because the red blood cells containing the parasites block the vessels. This condition can lead to a coma. It can also cause damage of the brain.
- Breathing problems: You might also have trouble breathing. This occurs when fluids accumulate in your lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema.
- Failure of organs: If the malaria is severe, certain organs such as the kidney, liver and spleen might fail. This is life threatening.
- Anemia: When you have malaria, your red blood cells are destroyed leading to anemia.
- Reduced blood sugar: When the malaria is severe, you might suffer from low blood sugar level. This situation is dangerous as you could go into a coma or die.
Note: To avoid the complications, it is wise to seek medical advice within the shortest time possible when you experience the symptoms of malaria.
How do you treat malaria?
What follows after diagnosis is treatment. The type of treatment that the doctor provides depends on the type of parasite that has caused malaria in your body. While receiving treatment, the doctor will be very keen to determine whether or not the drugs can remove the parasite from your body. Some parasites are resistant to various drugs. When this happens, you can be given several medications or your doctor will recommend that you change the medication.
Another consideration that is made when you are being given treatment is how long the parasite can stay dormant in the body before reacting. Some parasites such as P. vivax and P. ovale can settle in the body and do nothing until after some time. If you are found to have any of these parasites, you will be given medication to prevent the infection from relapsing later in future.
Risk factors of malaria
You are likely to contract malaria if you visit countries south of the Sahara because of the tropical and subtropical climate. Also malaria is prevalent among young children and babies, pregnant women and their unborn children. These people need to be observant about the symptoms of malaria and seek medical advice soon enough.
Prevention of malaria
Without any doubt, malaria can make you feel weak. It can make you become less productive and also spend a lot of money on treatment. To avoid such scenarios, the best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place.
Here are some prevention tips;
There is an ABCD approach recommended in the prevention strategy. Awareness, bite prevention, check the need for malaria tablets and diagnosis. Basically, this approach requires you to investigate whether you are risking getting infected with malaria by travelling. The next process is preventing mosquito bites. The third step is determining if you need anti-malarial tablets and then going for a diagnosis if you experience some of the malaria symptoms.
1. Take medications before travelling
If you are going to a place that is prone to malaria, ensure to consult the doctor. They will give you medications that will prevent you from getting the disease. Notably, these medications are similar to those used for treatment and they should be taken before the tour, during the tour and after the tour. Note that even if you come from an area where malaria is common, you also need to take the medications while travelling to another place.
Ensure to follow the instructions given to you by the doctor. Also the doctor needs to check if the medication will have any effect on your body. These anti-malarial tablets might affect you if you have HIV, are depressed, have epilepsy or experience seizures, if you have heart, liver and kidney problems. You might also be affected if you have a contraceptive that is hormonal and if you take medicine to prevent the clotting of blood.
There are tablets that are bought directly from the local pharmacy. However, it is always good to have the doctor instruct you on the best. This is because some malaria parasites are worse than others.
Note: Avoid over-the-counter drugs. Get a prescription from an authorized physician to avoid complications of the drug or unsolicited reactions in the body due to allergies.
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2. Bite prevention
The next step towards preventing malaria is by avoiding mosquito bites. You can never really avoid being bitten by a mosquito but if you can, then you have less risk of contracting the disease.
One of the ways to avoid mosquito bites is staying in a place that has sufficient air conditioning. You should also ensure that the windows and doors are screened. You should also close them when possible to prevent entry of mosquitoes in the room.
You can also prevent mosquito bites by sleeping under a treated mosquito net. With a mosquito net, these insects cannot distract your sleep through bites and most importantly, they cannot transmit the disease to you.
Using insect repellents on your skin can also come in handy to prevent malaria. The best repellents are those that contain DEET. Ensure to apply it regularly on your skin when outside or sleeping without a treated net.
Here are the precautions you must take when using DEET insect repellents;
- They must not be applied to children who are less than 2 months old.
- You should not apply them on exposed skin; I.e. skin that has wounds or injuries.
- Only spray on your hands. For your face, you only need to pat it.
- Do not let the DEET spray get onto your eyes and lips
- After applying it, ensure to clean your hands
- If you suffer from skin irritation, you should not use the spray. You can probably use another mosquito bite prevention strategy.
- If you will apply sunscreen, apply the DEET after and not before.
Covering your body appropriately can also keep you safe from mosquito bites. If you are in an area infected with mosquitoes, wear trousers instead of shorts. Also put on long sleeved shirts as opposed to short sleeved ones. If you are bald, you might want to put on a cap. By doing this, you leave no room for mosquitoes to come into contact with your skin.
Note: You can use more than one bite prevention strategy to be fully protected. However, be sure not to use one that might affect your health.
3. Home remedies for preventing malaria
Preventing malaria requires you to stay away from mosquitoes completely. There are certain things that you can do to your home to prevent these insects.
First, drain any stagnant water from your compound. Water could be on containers left in the gardens or toys or containers used to feed your pets. Stagnant water offers a great breeding site for mosquitoes, which is why you need to drain it.
The second strategy is to cut long vegetation. Mosquitoes usually rest on such vegetation especially when it is hot. If you cut the grass to a good height, they will not have a place to stay and thus will go away from your compound.
Use water agitators on ponds. If you have a pond, the water is definitely not moving and mosquitoes can breed here. To prevent this from happening, you can get a water agitator which keeps the water in motion. Mosquitoes cannot breed on moving water.
Also keep your swimming pool treated and clean.
Note: Stagnant water is a breeding place for mosquitoes. Ensure to clear any stagnant water from your area using the above methods in order to stay safe.
Malaria is a killer disease and anybody can suffer from it if they do not learn how to prevent it. It is mainly caused by the anopheles mosquito which spreads parasites in your body through biting. The symptoms include being anemic, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, muscle pain, convulsions and abdominal pains among others. If treatment is not sought early enough, a person can suffer from complications such as cerebral malaria, anemia, organ failure, pulmonary edema and low blood sugar. In case you notice some of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment usually entails medications. They are administered depending on the type of parasite that has infected the red blood cells of an individual.
Prevention entails taking anti-malarial tablets when travelling, avoid bites and applying home remedies such as draining stagnant water. The best type of repellent to use for mosquito bite prevention is one that contains DEET.
The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content including text, graphics, images, and information contained on or available through this page is for general information purposes only.
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