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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Doxycycline for Malaria?

Malaria is transmitted through mosquito bites.
Doxycycline can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.
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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2014
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Doxycycline is used for malaria prevention and treatment. The main advantage of using doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis is to prevent the potentially fatal disease from happening in the first place. Also, when doxycycline is used in combination with quinine to treat malaria, there is a high cure rate. The main disadvantage of using the drug is the occurrence of possible side effects, most commonly gastrointestinal ones.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease endemic to mostly tropical and sub-tropical areas. It is a potentially fatal disease, so anybody traveling to such an area should take chemo-prophylaxis. The disease usually presents with fever, sweating and chills, but may also present with more vague symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and headache. Medical attention should be sought for any symptoms.

The choice of prophylaxis is made according to the area being visited and the person's medical history. Doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis is one of the options. It is taken as a daily dose 48 hours before entering the area, for the whole time in the area, and for four weeks after leaving.

Doxycycline has been used to prevent and treat malaria for a long time, so the side effects and interactions are well established. This allows the prescribing practitioner to make an informed decision according to the specific traveler's medical history and any concomitant medicines. Other medicines used for malaria prophylaxis are contraindicated in some people, making doxycycline a good option.

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The main disadvantages of using doxycycline for malaria are its potential side effects of producing gastrointestinal problems and photo-sensitivity. Doxycycline may also interact with other medications, including oral contraceptive pills. Other drugs used for malaria prophylaxis have different dosage regimens and duration of treatment, which may make them preferable over doxycycline.

Doxycycline for malaria treatment is always used in combination, usually with quinine, and has good cure rates. It is used to treat Plasmodium falciparum malaria and is started when the patient can be administered oral medication. Malaria should be treated as a medical emergency, and medical attention should be sought immediately if any signs of malaria are experienced during or after a trip to a malaria-endemic area.

This drug is a slow-acting antimalarial, but in combination with quinine, contributes to parasite clearance. It is not recommended in pregnant women or children under eight years old. In these cases, the second drug used may be clindamycin. Medical supervision is required when using doxycycline for both malaria prevention or treatment.

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MrsPramm
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - I never found that to be much of an issue. If you are living in the desert, you shouldn't be going out into the sun all that much anyway. Most activity is arranged to be completed in the morning, or the evening in order to avoid the sun.

And having sensitive skin just makes you even more eager to avoid it and better at remembering to put on hats and sunblock and every other precaution, which can only be a good thing.

Besides, frankly, I would take any treatment for malaria over the disease itself. It's horrible and really not something I want to go through again.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@pastanaga- They used to use Larium in the armed forces as well, until it became widely known that they caused mental illness.

Now doxycycline is more common, I think. The problem with using it to prevent malaria in Africa though is that it causes your skin to be quite sensitive to the sun, which means you'll burn even more easily in a hot desert climate. Seems like a major disadvantage to me.

pastanaga
Post 1

When I was joining the Peace Corps, they asked us several questions in order to determine which kind of malaria preventative was suitable.

The cheapest kind at the time was larium, which has the potential to cause psychological problems. In fact, a lot of my fellow volunteers who were on larium said that it caused extremely vivid dreams. But in some cases it's caused severe mental disorders in people, so if you reported any kind of history of depression or other mental illness, they would not give it to you.

The next kind of malaria pills were doxycycline, which were the kind I was on. I never had a problem with them, but it was kind of annoying to have to remember to take them every day.

Some people deliberately mentioned that the doxycycline was giving them a stomach ache (a common side effect) so that they could get the good pills (can't remember the name), which only had to be taken once per week.

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