“It was estimated that in 2020 that 241 million people had been affected by malaria.” – (World Health Organisation.) If not diagnosed and treated quickly it can be life-threatening. In this article, we will be looking at some of the ways you can protect yourself against malaria when travelling. In this article we will be asking what malaria is and how we can prevent it? I hope that this helps you to arm yourself with as much information on malaria prevention as possible in order to make informed decisions when travelling.
What is Malaria? And how is it spread?
Malaria is a disease that can be life-threatening, or cause long-term illnesses if not treated within 24 hours. It is spread by a parasite that can infect female Anopheles mosquitoes. These mosquitoes then bite humans spreading the infection through our red blood cells.
Symptoms of malaria are similar to fever and flu-like illnesses such as headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, and shaking chills. People suffering from malaria may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Where does malaria tend to occur? Who is susceptible to malaria?
Mosquitos thrive in humid regions with high temperatures, which tend to be countries that are closer to the equator and therefore warmer. They breed by laying eggs in areas with stagnant water, and are also more active from dusk to dawn.
When we are talking about who is susceptible to malaria, we are looking at people who have little to no immunity to the virus. This can be a child, a pregnant woman and even people travelling.
Does Malaria have a vaccine?
October of 2021 the first ever malaria vaccine had been approved by WHO- the World Health Organisation. It has taken such a long time to develop a vaccine for malaria because of the fact that malaria is caused by a parasite, rather than bacteria, or a virus. With this said prevention of malaria is still the most effective way to protect yourself against it.
7 forms of Malaria protection when travelling
1. Use insect repellent.
One of the best forms of Malaria protection is insect repellent. Repellent should be consistently applied to exposed skin throughout the day, although mosquitos tend to be more active between dusk and dawn, it is always better to be safe.
It is recommended that you buy repellent that contains DEET, as this produces a smell that disperses insects. How often you apply the repellent throughout the day, will depend on the percentage dose of DEET in your chosen product- some last 1 to 3 hours and others can last up to 12 hours.
When applying both suncream and repellent, it is important to apply it before the insect repellent. This is because the sun cream will help absorb the DEET into your skin more effectively. However, DEET can decrease the effects of suncream by 30-40% so make sure to buy suncream with a higher SPF than you are usually used to.
2. Research the risks of malaria in your chosen location.
When planning your travels it is important you research the risks of that chosen location, this can help you to plan out the necessary precautions you may need to take in order to protect yourself against malaria. Things to think about could be, what time of year you’re travelling, what you plan to do, and how long your holiday will be.
3. Loose clothing that covers bare skin.
Mosquitoes can still bite skin through tight materials, so make sure you pack loose-fitting clothes that cover your skin as best you can- especially at times when mosquitos are more prevalent.
4. Staying in indoor areas at night.
Knowing that mosquitoes tend to frequent more at night, making sure you’re well protected at these times can be a brilliant way to protect yourself from malaria. Try to stay in well-screened areas and avoid sleeping outside without the proper protection- like a tent that has holes in it.
5. Bednets soaked in insecticides.
When sleeping at night making sure you are protected by a mosquito net is important, to further protect yourself make sure that those nets have been soaked in insecticides- you can do this yourself, but most mosquitos nets come this way so double check first. You must also make sure that there are no holes in the net and that they are properly fitted, tightly to the bottom of your mattress.
6. Anti Malaria tablets and talking to your doctor.
As we have said before researching your trip can be crucial in protecting yourself against malaria when travelling. Knowing the risk in the region you are travelling to and how long you plan to be there could reveal whether or not getting malaria medicines could be beneficial to protect yourself. Speaking to your doctor before your trip can help you to build an understanding of what treatment plan could be best.
7. Keep an eye on your health.
Malaria symptoms tend to occur 7 days to 4 weeks after an infected mosquito bite. However, symptoms can also occur as late as a year, so it is important that you contact a doctor the second you feel you have any symptoms if you have come in contact with a region where malaria is prevalent- it is always better to be safe.