Malaria: What To Look Out For And How To Treat The Disease Safely


What is Malaria?

In this part of the world, Malaria is regarded as a benign and common ailment. However, the disease is one of the leading causes of child death worldwide killing over 500,000 children every year and an average of 1,300 kids per day. This means that every 1 minute, a child dies from malaria.

Mosquitoes, particularly the female anopheles mosquito spreads the disease when it bites an a person. A mosquito bite infuses malaria parasites (micro-organisms belonging to the genus. Plasmodium) into your system. The presence of these parasites in the bloodstream causes malaria, which, left unchecked, can cause chronic health challenges, including organ failure, troubled breathing/respiratory problems, brain damage, seizures, and even death.

Prevalence of Malaria

Malaria is largely more prevalent in hot and humid tropical regions. 2020 reportedly saw nearly 250 million malaria cases globally, resulting in about 700,000 deaths, with most of the fatalities occurring in South Asia and Africa. 

While the disease manifests worldwide, underdeveloped and developing countries are the most hit, with its prevalence becoming even more severe in regions with high humidity and warmer temperature. These include:

  • Islands in the Central and South Pacific Ocean (Oceania).
  • South and Southeast Asia.
  • Eastern Europe.
  • Dominican Republic, Haiti and other areas in the Caribbean.
  • Central and South America.
  • Africa.

Who might get malaria?

Malaria has no upper limit on the number of people affected. However, people living in Africa are at a much higher risk because of the region’s nature (high heat and high humidity). The disease is however a more significant threat to pregnant women, young children, and the elderly, especially when they lack access to primary healthcare. 

Statistics show that over 80% of malaria-related fatalities occur in Africa, with nearly 90% being children. In fact, in 2020 alone, over 80% of deaths resulting from malaria in Africa involved children aged five and below. 

What are the causes of malaria?

Mosquitoes are vectors for malaria parasites, transferring them from one host to another. When a mosquito bites someone who’s infected, it becomes infected with the parasite; however, it doesn’t suffer from it. It passes on this parasite when it bites an uninfected person, after which it multiplies in the infected person, causing malaria.

Over a hundred different types of Plasmodium can infect living things; however, five types of malaria parasites can infect humans, and two pose the most severe threat to one’s quality of life. They are: Plasmodium vivax, and Plasmodium falciparum.  

In unusual cases, pregnant mothers can pass on the disease to their offspring during childbirth or, in some cases, before. It is also possible, although (highly improbable) for the disease to be passed on via hypodermic needles, organ donations, blood transfusions, etc.

What are its symptoms and typical signs?

The symptoms of malaria are very similar to those of the flu or common cold and can easily be misdiagnosed. They are:

  • Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
  • Chest pain, breathing problems and cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache and muscle aches.
  • Fever and sweating.

As the ailment and symptoms worsen, the chances of the infected person getting jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) and anaemia significantly increase. Left untreated, it can also devolve into cerebral malaria, its most critical stage, and could lead to a coma. Cerebral malaria reportedly causes over 20% of adult deaths and 15% of child mortality. 

When do the symptoms begin to manifest?

Malaria can reveal symptoms anytime between 10 days and, in some cases, even up to a year. This is because the parasites stay inactive in the liver for a long period of time. This ensures that the infected person does not show any sign or symptom, till the parasites re-enter the bloodstream.  

How is malaria diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will thoroughly examine you and ask about your symptoms to see if they are consistent with those of malaria. Your provider then takes a sample of your blood for testing to verify the presence of the disease parasites and the type of parasite so that treatment can begin.   

How is It treated?

When battling malaria, the earlier treatment begins, the faster the patient recovers and the less severe the effects. Sometimes healthcare providers give a combination of drugs alongside other drugs depending on the type of parasite present. This is because some parasites are resistant to antimalarial drugs.    

Some antimalarial drugs include:

  • Primaquine.
  • Quinine.
  • Mefloquine.
  • Doxycycline (Doxy-100®, Monodox®, Oracea®).
  • Chloroquine. (Some parasites are resistant to this medication).
  • Atovaquone (Mepron®).
  • Artemisinin drugs (artemether and artesunate). The best treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria is artemisinin combination therapy.

What are the side effects of malaria medications?

Antimalarial drugs can cause side effects depending on the medication. They may include: 

  • Anaemia.
  • Seizures.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • Psychological disorders and vision problems.
  • Insomnia and disturbing dreams.
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight.
  • Headaches.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as nausea and diarrhoea.

How can I prevent the disease?

To lower your chances of getting malaria, you should do the following:

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves to cover your skin.
  • Treat clothing, mosquito nets, tents, sleeping bags and other fabrics with an insect repellent called permethrin.
  • Put screens on windows and doors.
  • Drape mosquito netting over beds.
  • Apply mosquito repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide) to exposed skin.

Is there a vaccine against it?

The RTS, S/AS01 vaccine is effective against Plasmodium falciparum, the leading cause of severe and sometimes fatal malaria in children. It was developed and tested in a pilot program in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana. 

When should I see my doctor?

If you live in or have travelled to a country or region where the disease occurs frequently and you feel any of its common symptoms. It would be best if you spoke with a healthcare provider immediately. Treatment of this ailment is always more effective with early diagnosis. 


If you’re feeling any symptoms of malaria, don’t hesitate to speak to us at HealthConnect. We offer standard testing and treatment of malaria and other related illnesses to get you back on your feet in no time. 

Talk to us today!


Should infants and children be given antimalarial drugs?

Yes, but not all types of malaria drugs. Children of any age can contract the disease, and any child travelling to an area where malaria transmission occurs should use the recommended prevention measures, which often include an antimalarial drug. However, some antimalarial drugs are not suitable for children. Doses are based on the child’s weight.

Is it considered safe for me to breastfeed while taking an antimalarial drug?

The data showing adverse effects of using antimalarial drugs by nursing mothers is limited. However, the amount of antimalarial drugs transferred from the nursing mother to her infant is not harmful. Very minimal amounts of antimalarial drugs are present in the breast milk of breastfeeding women. Although there is limited information about the use of malaria drugs in breastfeeding women, most experts consider it unlikely to cause any harm.

What is the treatment for malaria?

Prescription drugs can cure the disease. The length of treatment and type of drugs used may depend on the malaria type, age, pregnancy status, where the person was infected, how sick they were at the start of treatment, and many more.

When is malaria self-treatment recommended?

Very rarely. If a traveller develops symptoms of the ailment, they should immediately seek medical attention to be examined and diagnosed appropriately. However, if professional medical care is unavailable within 24 hours, then self-treatment should begin immediately, mainly if fever, chills, or other influenza-like illness symptoms occur. Self-treatment of possible malarial infection is only temporary, and immediate medical care is essential. 





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