What are the Different Types of Malaria Prevention?

T. Broderick

There are many different types of malaria prevention. Though quinine was the standard preventive measure for hundreds of years, a number of readily available anti-malarial medications have come onto the market in the past half century. Though these medications have the same purpose, each has different instructions for use and unique side effects. As all anti-malarial medications are never 100% effective, a person traveling to a country with malaria needs to take certain common sense measures to protect him or herself.

A bed with mosquito netting.
A bed with mosquito netting.

A traveler needs to educate him or herself about the many forms of malaria prevention for four reasons. The first is that certain anti-malarial medications have adverse interactions with other medications. Second, all drugs have side effects that may harm individuals with certain pre-existing medical conditions, and third, a drug may only protect against one type of malaria. Finally, an individual may want to select a medication that has fewer total doses so that the taking of medication is not an inconvenience. With these considerations in mind, an individual can select an appropriate form of malaria prevention.

Malaria is transmitted through mosquito bites.
Malaria is transmitted through mosquito bites.

Primaquine is the most effective medicine in preventing malaria caused by P. vivax, one of four main types of the disease. The dose is daily, and an individual can wait until two days before his or her trip to begin taking the medication. After returning home, he or she has to continue medication for one week. A downside of primaquine is that an individual must be tested for a glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency before a doctor will prescribe the medication. Those testing positive for a deficiency and pregnant women cannot take the medication.

Mefloquine is a form of malaria prevention that protects against all forms of malaria. Safe for pregnant women, it is taken weekly and thus good for long trips. An individual must begin medication two weeks prior to travel and not stop until four weeks after coming home. As malaria in certain areas of the world is mefloquine-resistant, another medication is required. Finally, those with certain cardiac and psychiatric conditions cannot take mefloquine.

Doxycycline is the least expensive form of malaria prevention. A secondary advantage is that the medication can prevent other infections. It is a daily medication, and though an individual can wait until two days before travel to begin, taking the medication for four weeks after returning home is required. Pregnant women and children under 8 years old cannot take doxycycline.

Besides consulting a physician when deciding on the right anti-malarial medication, an individual can take common sense measures to protect him or herself against malaria. As malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, long sleeves and pants and generous amount of bug spray are good first lines of defense. Sleeping under a mosquito net will provide protection and ensure a better night's sleep. Combined, these forms of prevention will reduce one's chances of contracting malaria to practically zero.

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