What Are Malaria Pills?
Malaria Pills are drugs that you can take to treat malaria or to help prevent malaria from infecting you if you are travelling to malaria – risk area.
You can take medicine to treat malaria. You can also take medicine to prevent malaria and to make it less likely you’ll get the disease.
Prophylaxis means prevention, malaria prophylaxis describes the act of taking the recommended medicines with the aim of preventing malaria infection when and after travelling to malaria – risk area.
Types of Malaria Pills
Your doctor will likely choose the drug that’s recommended for the area where you’re traveling. It might be one of the following, below are the most commonly used malaria tablets:
• Atovaquone-proguanil ( brand name Malarone): You’ll take this pill daily, starting 1 to 2 days before your trip, and you’ll keep taking it for a week afterward. Pregnant women or people with kidney problems shouldn’t take it. Atovaquone-proguanil also costs more than some other malaria drugs.
• Chloroquine: This drug is taken once a week, starting about 1 to 2 weeks before your trip and continuing for 4 weeks after. But chloroquine is rarely used anymore, because it no longer works against P. falciparum, the most common and dangerous type of malaria parasite.
• Doxycycline: This daily pill is usually the most affordable malaria drug. You start taking it 1 to 2 days before your trip and continue taking it for 4 weeks afterward.
• Mefloquine (Lariam): Begin taking this weekly drug 2 weeks before travel and continue until 4 weeks afterward.
• Primaquine: This weekly drug is taken 1 to 2 days before travel, continuing until 1 week afterward.
• Tafenoquine (Arakoda, Kozenis, Krintafel): This new drug is recommended for adults aged 16 years or older who are traveling to malarious areas. It is to be taken daily for 3 days prior to travel to the region, once a week while there, then a dose seven days after exiting the area.
Take the Right Malaria pills for your destination
Depending on the country you are travelling to, some malaria pills may not be suitable because the malaria parasite has become resistant to the medication. It’s important to make sure you choose one that’s going to work most effectively for where you are going.
Atovaquone/proguanil (brand name Malarone), doxycycline, and mefloquine are the drugs of choice for malaria prevention in most malaria-endemic regions.
Chloroquine (Aralen, Avloclor) may be used safely in all trimesters of pregnancy, and mefloquine may be used safely in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Chloroquine is only effective in a small number of countries, mainly in Central America, and should never be taken to prevent malaria in Africa, South East Asia or South America.
Lariam has some patches of resistance in parts of South-East Asia, so is not an ideal option there.
However, Malarone and Doxycycline should work in all malaria risk areas.
The side effects of malaria pills
Side effects of antimalarial medications are a common reason that travellers avoid taking their prescribed medication or stop mid-way through their trip. However, all medications have side effects and antimalarial medication is no different. Side effects can include:
Chloroquine – stomach upsets, itching skin, nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, and headaches.
Malarone – stomach upsets, vomiting, headaches, and nausea.
Doxycycline – photosensitive skin reactions.
Mefloquine hydrochloride – nausea, headache, neurological effects such as dizziness, ringing of the ears, loss of balance, and psychiatric effects such as anxiety, depression, mistrustfulness, and hallucinations.
Primaquine phosphate – nausea and abdominal pain.
Your doctor will be able to explain the different side effects of each antimalarial medication so that you can choose a regime that works best for you.
If you are unsure of how an antimalarial medication will affect you, you may want to test the medication a couple of weeks before your trip. If significant side effects do occur, talk to your doctor about changing your prescription.