Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite which is an organism that lives on or inside another organism.At first, the symptoms of malaria are similar to those of flu. They include fever (a temperature of more than 38ÂșC), feeling generally unwell, shivering, sweating, headaches, aching joints and limbs, a sore throat and diarrhoea. These feverish symptoms are often referred to as an 'ague'. Signs and symptoms usually begin to appear a week or so after initial infection. Sometimes however, symptoms can appear several months later.

Malaria is prevalent in tropical areas such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is a very serious disease and can be fatal.

How Malaria Is Spread

Malaria is caused by a microscopic parasite called Plasmodium, which develops inside the gut of mosquitoes. The parasite can be passed on in the mosquito's saliva therefore humans can contract the disease if bitten by an infected mosquito. Malaria can only be passed on by female mosquitoes. Males feed on nectar and plant juices whereas females also feed on blood.

Mosquitoes usually appear between dusk and dawn although they can appear at other times of the day.

Avoiding Malaria

If you are planning a trip abroad, find out whether your destination is a malarious region. If malaria is a problem, consult your doctor well before your departure date. You doctor should advise you on an appropriate antimalarial medicine. Take this medicine exactly as directed.Insect repellents are available from all pharmacies in the form of sprays, creams, roll-ons and sticks. Most are applied directly to the skin but some can be used to treat clothing. Ankle and wrist bands are also available. Some suntan lotions also contain insect repellents.Use a plug-in insecticide or smoke coil if you are sitting around at night.Sleep under a mosquito net. Those impregnated with insecticide are particularly good.Wear long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, socks and shoes after dusk.Spray your room or tent with insecticide before going to bed.Use air conditioning in your room if it is available.Many insects breed in marshy areas and pools after dusk. Avoid these areas if at all possible. Close all windows and doors before dusk.

Treatment

Antimalarial medicines include chloroquine, proguanil, atovaquone, mefloquine and doxycycline. In some parts of the world the Plasmodium parasite has developed resistance to certain medicines therefore treatments will vary depending on your destination. Please note that some of these antimalarial medicines are only available with a doctor's prescription. As there is no medical need for the medication, you may be issued with a private prescription in which case you will be charged the full cost of the items. The newer drugs for malaria can be very expensive but they are essential and you must not travel to a malarious region without them.Take your antimalarial medicine according to the instructions. It is important that you continue taking your medicine for four weeks after returning home. Taking antimalarials after food should reduce the risk of side effects.

No antimalarial is 100% effective therefore you should not rely upon them. Take extra precautions to ensure that you are not bitten in the first place.

When To See A Doctor

Consult your doctor before travelling to a malarious region.

If you develop any of the symptoms of malaria either during your trip or after returning home (even several months later) you must see a doctor at once. Tell your doctor about your recent trips abroad.

Additional Information

Leaflets about other travel health issues such as travellers' thrombosis, insect bites and stings, travel sickness and sun protection are also available at this pharmacy.

As yet there are no real treatments for jet lag. Some studies have shown that the hormone melatonin can help to treat the symptoms of jet lag. After dark, melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain to promote sleep. Exposure to sunlight when the body expects to be in darkness can prevent the production of this hormone. Taking melatonin may therefore reduce both the severity and duration of jet lag. As yet, melatonin is not available in Britain for the treatment of jet lag.

Additional Information

Leaflets about other travel health issues such as travellers' thrombosis, malaria, insect bites and stings, travel sickness and sun protection are also available at this pharmacy.