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The ABCD of Malaria

The symptoms of malaria, a mosquito-transmitted tropical disease, include fever, chills, sweating, nauseousness, vomiting, and aches and pains. Malaria prevention methods must be used in high-risk locations because it can sometimes result in life-threatening complications.

How to protect yourself against malaria?

Research is the first step in malaria prevention while travelling. You should start practising mosquito bite avoidance as soon as you arrive in a place where malaria is a problem. You should take antimalarial medications as directed in regions where the danger is particularly high.

The ABCD technique is mentioned frequently in official recommendations for malaria prophylaxis:

  • Awareness of risk (checking whether your destinations are affected by malaria and how you should protect yourself)
  • Bite avoidance (e.g. using mosquito repellent and staying in adequately protected accommodation)
  • Chemoprophylaxis (where necessary, using antimalarial tablets)
  • Diagnosis and treatment (getting prompt medical advice if you begin experiencing symptoms)

Awareness of risk

Before leaving the country, it is highly advised that you consult a medical expert regarding your “awareness of risk.” If you need antimalarial medications, they can advise you on whether to take them and how to do so effectively. They can also give you advice on other travel requirements, such vaccines.

You can utilise tools like Travel Health Pro to learn more about your personal malaria risk. Remember that risk areas are subject to frequent change, therefore you should use current information.

Bite avoidance

A key element of malaria prophylaxis is mosquito bite avoidance. When visiting a country affected by malaria, bite prevention techniques should be your top priority. This is for two reasons:

  1. Antimalarial tablets cannot provide 100% protection
  2. Mosquitoes can carry other dangerous diseases such as dengue fever


You can avoid getting bitten by following these tips:

  • Put on long, loose-fitting clothing and long-sleeved shirts to keep your skin covered, especially between nightfall and dawn when malaria-carrying mosquitoes are most active
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin areas; the most effective repellents contain 20–50% DEET, but you can also use icaridin or lemon eucalyptus
  • Reserve a place to stay that has air conditioning, bug screens on the windows, and doors
  • When staying in less upscale accommodations, sleep with a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticide or repellent
  • Use pesticides that plug in


Chemoprophylaxis is the name given to medical treatments used to stave off sickness. Antimalarial medications are referred to as malaria chemoprophylaxis and should be given in particular high-risk areas.

Antimalarials are typically only available with a prescription. Atovaquone and proguanil (malarone), doxyxcyline, and mefloquine (lariam) are the three malaria medications that are given most frequently in the UK.

Atovaquone and proguanil (marketed under the name Maloff) are available without a prescription over the counter, however it is advised that you consult a doctor first. An antimalarial drug called chloroquine/proguanil is also available over-the-counter, however it is not always effective against malaria. To be sure you will be sufficiently protected, consult a doctor or nurse before obtaining chloroquine/proguanil.

If you need to take antimalarial medication while travelling, you need to start taking it before you reach the malaria zone and keep taking it once you have left. Get advice from your doctor or chemist before taking any antimalarial medication, and always take your tablets exactly as prescribed. Different antimalarials must be taken in different ways and for varying durations of time.

Diagnosis and treatment

Although you should be adequately protected if you follow the above-described recommendations for malaria prophylaxis, it is still possible to contract the disease. Prior to developing symptoms, malaria parasites often incubate in the liver for at least a week. Because of this, it’s unlikely that you have malaria if you start showing symptoms just a few days after moving from a malaria-free area into a malaria zone.

If you begin experiencing symptoms after you have been in a malaria zone for at least one week, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible; certain types of malaria can cause serious complications and require swift diagnosis and treatment.

The symptoms of malaria include:

  • Fever
  • Chills and shivering
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea


Malaria symptoms can occasionally come and go in cycles. Every two or three days, you can get feverish, chills, and sweaty. Not every malaria patient exhibits these recurring episodes of symptoms. Since you have been in a malaria zone for at least a week, it is essential that you get medical advise about malaria as soon as you notice any of the symptoms listed above.

how long can you take malaria prophylaxis?

Antimalarial medications and avoiding mosquito bites are part of the malaria prophylaxis regimen. The duration of your course of treatment will depend on the type of antimalarial you are taking. However, prophylaxis should be started prior to travel; the precise timing will be specified in the patient information leaflet. This could be 1-2 days or a week ahead. Most antimalarial medications should be taken orally once daily while you are in an area where malaria is a danger, and then for up to 4 weeks after you return home.

You’ll also need to practise bite avoidance by wearing mosquito nets, DEET sprays, and clothing that covers your arms and legs in addition to taking antimalarial medications. DEET sprays are another option for malaria prevention during pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding, it is also essential that you wash your hands and breasts before feeding your child.

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