Should I take malaria tablets?

pílula anti-malária
pílula anti-malária

This post is also available in: Português

Malaria is one of the diseases which kill the most in the world. Its contraction happens by a mosquito bite normally in tropical places. We travelled to many areas with high rates of malaria infestation and this was one of our biggest concerns: Should I take malaria tablets?

Just a quick not to clarify that we are not doctors and anyone visiting a malaria infected area should see a specialist. Malaria is a very serious disease that can kill

Should I take malaria tablets: what we found out

After reading a lot on the internet, follow forums discussions for travellers and consult doctors and pharmaceuticals about the topic, we concluded that there is no consensus regarding the need for malaria tablets.

Nobody is entirely sure if the medication is actually the best way of preventing oneself. Plus, there is still the risk of serious collateral effects, such as depression, nightmares, insomnia and stomach-aches. In order to give you a bit more of context, we have met a Kiwi guy who had lost his right ear hearing after making use of one of those recommended prophylaxis.

Did we buy the malaria tablets?

map from areas affected by Malaria in the world
Areas affected by malaria

Even before we start travelling, in London still and unsure of anything, we opted to buy the Malarone, considered one of the best in the market. Though, as soon as we reached Kenya we had a different perspective. Africa has so many malaria cases that looks like they are much more prepared to deal with the disease than many European countries.

We had a Kenyan friend who was a doctor and he told us that our medicine was actually obsolete. He told us that either continue taking the pills or not, we would have the same risk of contract the illness. The reason he gave us is that the pills prevent just a few types of malaria and there are many types out there.

Should I take malaria tablets then?

Should I take malaria tablets
Image from the Canadian Unicef Committee website

What our African friends advised us many times is to prevent ourselves with good mosquitoes’ repellent. After all, that was what we had done. We used repellent daily and did not take the pill at all.

A worthy advice for those travelling to areas of high risk of malaria, whether you would like to buy the medicine or not, is to get two kits which can be found at local pharmacies. One is a test which you can apply on yourself. The test shows you immediately whether you have contracted the disease. The other set is a medicine cocktail which will help you to combat malaria in case you found out you contradicted it and are far from medical care.

However way you choose to prevent yourself, stay always alert because malaria is not a joke. Also, the fact of its symptoms being really similar to a strong flu (body pain and fever), it can only delay a diagnostic. Every person with these symptoms should look for a hospital, even if already back from holidays, as some of the times the symptoms just appear days after the bite.

  • Update: A doctor friend got in touch with us and suggested this website to help on making the decision of whether to take the pills depending of the country you are visiting.

* Also, check this article from Flash Packing Family – travel first aid kit.