Wednesday 25th April is World Malaria Day. Every two minutes someone dies of malaria, one of the deadliest infectious diseases you can catch when travelling. It is a parasitic infection carried by mosquitoes and affects large parts of the world. Symptoms are flu-like at first but, can then worsen to become life-threatening, such as breathing problems and organ failure.
If you’re planning a trip in the coming months here are our top tips to protect yourself against malaria:
Before you travel discuss your plans with a nurse experienced in giving specific travel advice. Remember you may need to start vaccinations or courses of malaria tablets in advance of your trip, so give yourself enough time to be protected before you travel.
This may react with your skin so test it before you travel and make sure it suits you. Each repellent contains different ingredients and some insects are resistant to certain types, so check with the travel nurse which type you will need depending on the places you plan to visit. Use it whenever you go out in the evening, even if you are covered up with clothing.
In an area where there are lots of mosquitoes it is advisable to make sure the place you are staying has nets on the windows and around beds, especially cots for children. If you are going back-packing, try to stay with organised groups who will often advise you to carry your own net.
Wear long sleeved tops and long trousers if you will be walking in an area known to be high risk of malaria. This will also protect you from the sun (don’t forget your hat!). In some places females may wish to wear skirts to be sympathetic to cultural norms in the area. It is fine to wear trousers underneath to protect you.
Be aware of the risk factors
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and tend to infest low ground and boggy areas. Higher ground tends to be lower risk as the insects don’t always fly at that level. Insects tend to bite more in the evenings, so take extra care when outside at night.
Despite these precautions it is still possible to become infected if you are bitten by a mosquito carrying the malaria parasite. When you return watch out for any signs or symptoms and if you are feeling unwell seek medical attention immediately. Always let your GP know that you have been travelling in an area at risk of malaria, so they can consider this when diagnosing your illness. Although most cases happen within a week or so of returning, it could be up to a year before symptoms become apparent, so make sure you don’t forget the chance of malaria.
Most people who develop malaria initially experience flu-like symptoms such as aching limbs, fever, tiredness and a tight headache. To view the NHS guidance on signs and symptoms to look out for click here.
For more information click here or to book an appointment with a travel nurse call our reception team on 01625 704777
Click here to support the World Health Organisation’s efforts to bring malaria to an end.