How can I protect myself from getting malaria?
You should do whatever you can to keep from getting mosquito bites. If you can, sleep in a room with screens on the windows and doors. Use a mosquito net over your bed. If possible, spray the net with permethrin, a spray that repels mosquitoes. During the evening, wear light-colored pants and shirts with long sleeves. It's important to protect yourself with a bug repellent spray that contains no more than 35% of a chemical called DEET. Avoid going outdoors without protection in the evening, when mosquitoes are typically more active. Medicine is also available to help prevent malaria.
What medicines can I take to prevent malaria?
If you plan to travel to a country where malaria is common, you'll probably take a medicine that may keep you from getting malaria. This is called "prophylactic" malaria medicine. Remember, however, no medicine can protect you 100% and you should still take other precautions to prevent malaria.
Prophylactic malaria medicines require you to start taking the medicine a few days or a week before you leave on your trip. You keep taking the medicine during your trip and after your trip for about 1 to 4 weeks, depending on which medicine you are taking. It's important to keep taking the medicine after your trip because the malaria parasites could still be in your blood. If you stop taking the medicine too soon, it could give the parasites an opportunity to grow and make you sick. Malaria medicines have some side effects, and not everyone can take them. Your doctor can tell you which medicine is right for you. What type of medicine you take also depends on where you will be traveling.
Mefloquine and atovaquone/proguanil are two medicines you can take. If you can't take one of these, your doctor might recommend you take doxycycline. Doxycycline makes you sunburn easily, so you must wear a hat, long sleeves and sunscreen whenever you're outside during the day.
If you're traveling to parts of Central America, the Dominican Republic, Haiti or some areas of the Middle East, your doctor may prescribe chloroquine.
Beware of homeopathic medicines advertised to prevent malaria. Because homeopathic medicines are not regulated, it’s hard to know whether they will be effective. The CDC also warns against purchasing prophylactic malaria medicines overseas. In some countries, medicines sold to help prevent malaria may be fake or less effective than necessary.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff