Most of my family members suffered from malaria from time to time. Malaria is the household word that I grew up with as a child. I remember my mother would not let us go out to play during evenings or early mornings during the mosquito season. Or especially during rainy season, when the infestation is at its peak. Luckily I survived this potentially deadly disease that is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. The parasite attacks and infects the red blood cells. It usually starts and lasts as cycles of chills, fever, pain, and sweating. Malaria, meaning bad air, is transmitted through mosquitoes in an infectious disease that could last as a mild case to severe life-threatening infection depending on the type of malarial infestation. Parasites are injected by the infected mosquito and travel through the blood stream to the liver and mature and end up infecting the red blood cells in the body.
Symptoms of malaria usually include flu like sensations, chills, muscle pains, headache, nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, and fever in cycles. Since it infects the red blood cells the patients usually end up being anemic and developing a yellowish, pale look which is jaundice of the skin. More severe symptoms of malaria include bleeding problems, shock, liver or kidney failure, central nervous system problems, coma or death. Cerebral malaria could lead to seizures and coma and sometimes death. Malaria lasts for one to two weeks depending on the severity of the incubation of the parasite in the red blood cells. In some cases it could last for eight to 10 months.
While there is no particular test for diagnosing malaria a blood smear test is done to show the presence of the parasite. Treatments for mild forms of malaria include oral medications while severe cases require drugs like quinine, tetracycline, clindamycin, or malarone along with plenty of fluids and rest. Travelers to South East Asian countries and any tropical countries such as India are advised to take precautions as early as possible starting with acquiring proper information regarding diseases such as malaria. Anti-malarial drugs such as Mefloquine or Larium are given one to two weeks before travel and every week once during the travel and for four weeks after leaving the countries in order to prevent malarial infections. There is no vaccination for malarial infection. Prevention methods include avoiding outdoors during early morning hours and early evening hours when the mosquitoes numbers are more. Wearing long sleeve shirts, pants and socks is recommended. Mosquito repellents should be sprayed over the clothes and mosquito nets should be tied around beds.
Whenever I travel to India I take all the necessary precautionary measures including malaria medicines, anti diarrheal medicines, Tylenol, allergy medicines and the whole shebang in order to avoid possible complications. Sometimes I am laughed at for carrying more medicines than other luggage but I firmly believe in early prevention methods than crying over the spilt milk and I suggest you to do it too because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.