Malaria Needs Your Attention: Know About Its Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
What is malaria?
Malaria is caused because of mosquitoes that are infected with tiny parasites. When an infected mosquito bites your body, it injects malaria parasites into the blood. This serious disease is caused by parasites and not because of viruses or bacteria.
If not treated properly, malaria can lead to several health issues like seizures, difficulty in breathing, brain damage, organ failure or even death.
If you are travelling to an area where malaria is common, you must consult your doctor regarding the ways you can protect yourself from this disease. This infection can also spread when a malaria mosquito bites a malaria patient and then bites a non-infected person.
How common is malaria?
Tropical areas are more prone to malaria as a hot and humid climate is favourable for this disease. In 2020, around 241 million patients were reported throughout the world, with 627,000 deaths due to this disease. Most of these cases were reported in Africa and South Asia.
Where does malaria usually occur?
Malaria can spread all over the world and is much more common in developing countries and areas where the temperature is humid and warm. Such areas include:
- Dominican Republic and Haiti
- Central and South America
- Eastern Europe
- South and Southeast Asia
- Islands in the Central and South Pacific Ocean
Who might get malaria?
Anyone can suffer from malaria. Young children, pregnant women and older people have a higher risk of dying from malaria. People with financial crises or who don't have access to proper treatment are more likely to develop complications from this disease.
What causes malaria?
When a mosquito bites a malaria patient, it becomes infected with the disease. When this mosquito bites another person, it transfers the parasite into that person's bloodstream. This results in the multiplication of parasites. There are 5 types of malaria parasites which can infect us. Usually, malaria transmission happens through the infected bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes. It can also be spread through contaminated needles.
The transfer of malaria disease from a pregnant lady to her newborn before or during birth is very rare.
It is unlikely but sometimes possible for malaria to get transferred through blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and organ donations.
What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?
Signs and symptoms of malaria are similar to that of flu. These include:
- Sweating and fever
- Chills which can shake your body
- Muscle aches and headache
- Breathing problems, chest pain and cough
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
If the patient's conditions worsen with malaria, it may result in jaundice and anaemia. The high severity of malaria may lead to coma, which is called cerebral malaria. Such a condition shows 15% of deaths in children and 20% of deaths in adults.
When do symptoms begin if you're infected with malaria?
It takes around 10 days for a malaria infection to show in your body. As per the parasite type, symptoms of malaria in children or adults can be mild or severe. Some patients may feel sick for around a year after the mosquito bites them. Some parasites remain in the body for several years without showing major symptoms.
Some types of malaria, depending on the parasite, may repeat after a certain period. Such parasites remain inactive in your liver and get back into the bloodstream after years. You may experience symptoms again when the parasites start circulating in your body.
How is malaria diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your travel history and symptoms. You must share information about the countries you visited recently so that your doctor can determine the risk in a better manner. Usually, malaria is detected by taking a blood sample. Your blood test report will give you confirmation about malaria and the type of parasite present in your body. Through the blood test report, your doctor can suggest the correct line of treatment.
How is malaria treated?
What is the best treatment for malaria? It’s all about early detection. Early diagnosis of malaria can reduce risk and prevent death. Also, it minimizes the chances of spreading the disease to anyone else. It would help if you started taking malaria treatment as soon as you detect it. Your doctor will recommend some medications to kill the malaria parasites. Also, some malaria parasites are resistant to malaria treatment drugs. Based on the parasite, your doctor will suggest the medicines and for how long you need to take them.
You can also try some home remedies for malaria, like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and tulsi. However, never use these herbs as an alternative to your standard medical treatment.
Your doctor will choose the medication based on the malaria type, the resistance of mosquitoes to any medication, your weight and age and whether you are pregnant.
Anti-malarial drugs include:
- Chloroquine: however, some parasites are resistant to this drug
- Artemisinin drugs: suitable for Plasmodium falciparum malaria
If medications are taken at the right time, it is possible to cure malaria.
What are the side effects of medications to treat malaria?
With anti-malarial medications, you may experience some side effects. It would help if you informed your healthcare provider about the medicines you are taking, as many anti-malarial drugs may interfere with them. Based on the medications, you may experience below-mentioned side effects:
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues like diarrhoea and nausea
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Vision problems and psychological disorders
Can I prevent malaria?
If you are planning to travel to a country where malaria is common, you must talk to your doctor and take medicines to prevent this disease. You must take the medications before, during and even after your stay. Through drugs, you can decrease your chances of getting malaria to a considerable extent. You can't use these medications to treat malaria if you get infected even after taking these drugs.
To reduce your chances of getting malaria, you must take the following precautions:
- Use mosquito repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide).
- Use mosquito nets while sleeping.
- Install screens on doors and windows.
- Apply insect repellent on clothes, sleeping bags, tents, mosquito nets and other fabrics.
- Cover your body with long pants and long-sleeved clothes.
Is there a vaccine against malaria?
There is a vaccine, especially for children that was tested in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya. This vaccine was tested against Plasmodium falciparum malaria, which is common in children. Other programs are in the process of developing a vaccine against malaria.
What is the outlook for people who have malaria?
If malaria is left untreated, it may lead to organ failure and even death. You need to contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have malaria or have visited a country where this disease is common. If started early, malaria treatment is very effective and curable.
With the right line of treatment, you can recover from malaria and clear the entire infection from your body. If you have had malaria in the past, you can again get it if any infected mosquito bites you.
How is sickle cell trait related to malaria?
Researchers have found that people who have sickle cell trait remain protected against malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum. It has been found that red blood cells' sickle shape captures the parasites and destroys them.
You will have sickle cell trait if one of your genes has one sickle cell, and one has a normal gene. This condition is not the same as sickle cell disease. Sickle cell anaemia is a blood disorder called sickle cell disease.
Malaria can become life-threatening if not treated properly. It is caused by a mosquito that contains Plasmodium parasites. Mainly, the symptoms of malaria in adults or children include chills and fever that will disappear after a few days but will come back after a few weeks. This disease can impact the vital organs of your body.
If you are planning to visit a country where malaria is very common, you must consult your doctor and take anti-malarial drugs to minimize the risk.
Metropolis is a leading diagnostic centre where you can get yourself tested for malaria. Usually, a smear test is done to know the type of malaria parasite, and based on that, your doctor will provide the line of treatment. You can expect the report online in a few days with optimum accuracy.