Mosquitos – the little blood suckers.
They bite us (multiple times), give us dirty big bumps on our skin, and are so so itchy. Even worse, they can pass on diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. If you’ve read up already on the immunizations and vaccinations, you’ll know that you need to take Malaria tablets if you’re traveling to Southeast Asia, South America and Africa – Links inserted if you haven’t already read up on this already.
After reading up on which continent you’re going to and what injections you’re going to get you may have seen a little bit about Malaria. Good news is that there are no shots needed for Malaria but you must take Malaria tablets which can have some pretty interesting side effects. You need to take malaria tablets before you go and during your awesome trip. Prior to leaving, best not to take it on the way to work like one of our friends who ended up being sick on a crowded train platform in London… on the plus side, he didn’t get Malaria 🙂
Read on for a quick guide to help you choose which Malaria tablet to take in preparation for your amazing traveling journey:
Which Malaria drugs should I take when traveling?
There are loads of different Malaria tablets on the market but there are 3 that seem to pop up more often than others. Here’s some info on them:
1) Doxycycline: This is the drug of choice by backpackers worldwide – why? It’s very cheap, easily available, and highly effective. You don’t need to take it very long before you leave, only 1-2 days, so if you leave things to the last minute this is for you.
PROs: Cheap cheap cheap and easy to get everywhere, including the countries you plan to visit
CONs: Increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills (hear that ladies, be smart!), and can cause nausea. Have to take it every day – which is easy to forget
COST PER 6 MONTH TRIP: $100 or less, much less if you buy it abroad.
DURATION: Start two days before travel, throughout your stay in an endemic area and continue for four weeks after return
2) Larium (Mefloquine): You can get very crazy, weird, trippy, insert expletive here, dreams taking this. Can be pretty funny if you’re in a group with a few of you are taking it and comparing dreams in the morning. It’s a little more expensive than Doxycycline but the big plus – you only have to take it once a week.
PROs: Only have to take it once a week, pretty cheap
CONs: Crazzzzy dreams for the first month or two until you get used to it – this can be moved to positive if you like having really trippy dreams
COST PER 6 MONTH TRIP: Around $150
DURATION: Start two and a half weeks before travel, throughout your stay in an endemic area and continue for four weeks after return.
3) Malarone: Got cash to burn, get this. At a cost of $3+ a pill and a daily dosage your 6 month travels will cost you over $500! But with little or no negatives it’s without doubt the ‘best’ pill in terms of prevention versus side effects.
PROs: Highly effective AND you only have to take it for one extra week after your trip
CONs: Pricey days at $3 a pill and you have to take it daily – which can be easy to forget
COST PER 6 MONTH TRIP: Upwards of $500
DURATION: Start two days before travel, throughout your stay in an endemic area and continue for one week after return.
Chloroquine (in addition to proguanil) is another anti-malarial drug that we have seen from time to time. From meeting people on the road, and research the world wide library I’d give these a miss because mosquitoes demonstrate widespread resistance (especially in Southeast Asia).
Remember, Malaria tablets don’t make you 100% immune so make sure you take all the extra precautions such as mosi repellent (with high DEET), long pants, and long sleeves (only if it’s cool… you don’t want to sweat your face off worrying about getting Malaria). I guess the most important thing is to carry on taking the tablets – don’t be lazy and stop taking them – you could be very sorry later down the line. You could also try and swat every mosi that passes you by but they’re crafty and will find a way to try and eat you (they always do that with me).
If you want to be extra extra safe, or your going on jungle trek in Africa, taking coartem is a good choice. If you forget to take your doses, or the super mosi’s manage to pass Malaria to you it can reduce the side effects of Malaria. Again, this is optional but might be worth taking if you’re traveling in Africa for a stint in rural areas with high Malaria risk (it’s only about $8 too).
As with getting your immunizations, have a word with your GP about Malaria and they can help you make a recommendation that is right for you (everyones different right?). This is something you don’t want to risk getting on your travels!
That being said – don’t let the mosi’s win. Have fun and make the most, happy travels boys and girls.