Why Take Anti-Malaria Medication?

Malaria seems to be in the news every now and then.

A lot of people travel to places where you can get malaria, and some remember to get some anti-malaria medication for their trip. Some people even remember to take their prescribed medication. When coupled with simple steps to reduce the number of mosquito bites, you can have a pretty worry free trip. But if you don’t get anti-malaria medication before you leave, there are two outcomes: you will either be lucky and not get malaria, or unlucky and get really sick.

A patient at a major hospital in Hong Kong is an example of what can happen. This 40-year-old traveller went to the emergency room after returning from a trip abroad. She had a cough, fever, sore throat and muscle aches. Although she was asked about possible travel, she did not reveal that she had been in Ghana for about 10 days before she returned home and got sick. Without this information, the doctors diagnosed her as having an upper respiratory tract infection (a common cold).

After a short time at home, she returned with stomach pain, vomiting and blood in her urine. Blood tests showed there were problems with her liver, and she was admitted to the hospital. At this time, her travel history came to light. However, by the afternoon of her admission, she became unconscious because of swelling in her brain. She had cerebral (brain) malaria. Anti-malaria treatment was started, but she remained in critical condition.

Could this happen to you? Yes, it could. While this is not a terribly common problem among travellers, it does happen to people who return to their home countries after exposure to malaria without taking the proper precautions.

Don’t let it happen to you! Don’t play the odds! When travelling to malaria areas, take the right precautions, including taking anti-malaria medications scrupulously.