How to Avoid Malaria and Other Diseases You Might Catch From Insects:
What is malaria?
Malaria is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes to humans, when an infected mosquito bites a person. It usually causes high fevers, chills, headaches, and body aches. Malaria is a parasite. Once it is in the human body, it travels to the liver through the blood. This disease creates sickness when the malaria parasite comes out of the liver. The parasite can stay in the liver for a very long time. But, the worst type of malaria usually comes out of the liver within two weeks after the infected mosquito bites a person.
Why is malaria important?
There is no vaccine to protect you from malaria. Malaria commonly causes very serious disease and DEATH. People can die within 12 hours from the time they experience their first symptoms. It is important to do all you can to prevent malaria. This includes avoiding mosquito bites and taking the appropriate medicine while you travel and for a period after you return.
How do I prevent mosquito bites?
- There are many things you can do to prevent mosquito bites and other insect bites. These malaria prevention measures listed below will not only protect you against malaria, but may prevent other serious diseases such as yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and Dengue fever. Mosquitoes that carry malaria generally bite from sunset until sunrise. Mosquitoes that bite during the day cause other diseases, so they are also best avoided. Some simple things to avoid mosquito bites include:
- Wear protective clothing (long sleeve shirts and pants).
- Use air-conditioning. This deters mosquitoes and windows that can be shut or at least used with screens can help decrease the number of mosquito bites.
- Use a net over the bed (bed net) at night whenever possible.
- Use mosquito repellants. The best mosquito repellant is one that contains DEET (N,N diethyl metatoluamide”). It is important to use products that have at least 25-50% DEET in them. These are widely available from most pharmacies, grocery stores, and convenience stores. There are many brands (i.e. Repel, Off, Cutters). Simply look on the side of the product under “Ingredients” to make sure it contains DEET and to find the correct percentage. There are some DEET products available as a “slow-release” lotion (i.e. Ultrathon, Sawyer). These may contain less than 25% DEET, but work well. DEET should be applied every 4-6 hours…and particularly before going to sleep. It is safe for children and for pregnant women. However, you need to be careful not to get it your eyes or mouth.
- Treat your clothing. For the added protection you should consider treating your clothing with Permethrin and use the DEET on your skin. Permethrin, the same chemical used on bed nets, is safe and when clothes are properly treated, can last many weeks with one treatment. The best way to treat clothing is buying a formulation that you can prepare and dip your clothing in. If you have questions, ask your doctor or nurse to assist you. There are other repellants available but many do not protect as long or have as long a safety record as DEET.
Can I use DEET on the skin and Permethrin on the clothes of my children?
Yes. DEET is safe for use on kids. Do not apply more often than instructed on the bottle. In small children, do not place close to their eyes. Do not place on hands that they will place in their mouths. Insecticide treated bed nets are very important for children and should be used around sleeping areas day and night.
What medication should I take?
There are several medications available for malaria. You should discuss with your travel medicine physician. If you are going to an area with malaria, it is extremely important that you, and your children, take a medication and take it as directed: start before you go, while you are there and after you leave the malaria area. Remember that you must complete the medicine as directed, which is frequently for up to a month after leaving the malaria area. Make sure you understand how to take the medicine before leaving your travel medicine physician’s office.