The ultimate guide to antimalarials

The ultimate guide to antimalarials

 

 
 
Odds are, if you’re visiting a country where malaria is high-risk, you may be offered a type of medicine known as an antimalarial. This type of drug is used to both prevent and treat malaria, a very serious and sometimes fatal disease that’s caused by an infected mosquito.
 
Antimalarials aren’t 100% effective, either, so it’s advised that you use insect repellent, mosquito nets while you’re sleeping, and wear long sleeves and pants. Antimalarials can be a little complex, and there isn’t just one to choose from.
 
That’s why we’ve compiled this helpful guide to teach you everything you need to know about antimalarials: who can take them, how effective they are, and some of the pros and cons. Not using any mosquito prevention may come back to bite you later!
 
 

What is malaria?

 
As we mentioned earlier, malaria is a serious infection spread by mosquitoes that have been infected by a parasite, and it can take just one bite to get it. If malaria isn’t diagnosed and treated quickly, the results can be fatal.
 
Don’t worry! Malaria isn’t found here in the UK and you can’t catch it from another person. However, it is very common in certain parts of the world, especially in tropical regions such as: 
 

  • Africa and Asia
  • Central and South America
  • Dominican Republic and Haiti
  • Parts of the Middle East
  • Some Pacific islands

 
Malaria can be tricky to spot, so it’s important to seek medical attention straight away if you notice any symptoms and you’re in a country where malaria is common. These symptoms typically take around 7-18 days after you’ve been bitten to show. Malaria symptoms include:
 

  • A high temperature
  • Sweats and chills
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness (especially in children)
  • Feeling and being sick
  • Stomach and muscle pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellow skin or whites of the eyes
  • A sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

 
Some people will be more at risk than others if they catch malaria, for example, pregnant women, young children, over 65s, those who have a weak immune system or have no spleen.
 
If any of these sound like you or someone you’re travelling with, it’s recommended that you get advice before you travel – you may even be offered an antimalarial if the country you’re visiting is low-risk.
 
 

The different types of antimalarials

 
Let’s crack on with the main subject of this guide: antimalarials. Not only are antimalarials a treatment for malaria, but they can also help to prevent you from contracting malaria, too. 
 
We stock a range of antimalarials, from ones you can buy over-the-counter (OTC) to ones you’ll need a prescription for. For prescription antimalarials, you can visit the clinic section on our website to complete a consultation by answering some quick and easy health-related questions and one of our helpful Chemist4U pharmacists will decide whether the medicine is right for you.
 
 

 
 

Proguanil and Atovaquone

 
Maloff or Malarone are the brand names for the antimalarial that contains the active ingredients proguanil and atovaquone. These two ingredients work together to tackle the plasmodium parasite when it enters your bloodstream, preventing it from transmitting the disease to you.
 


 

Pros

 

  • The medicine should be started 1-2 days before you’re due to travel, making it an ideal choice for last-minute travellers
  • You may prefer to take your medicine daily
  • It’s a great option if you’re going on a shorter trip as you’ll only have to take the medicine for 7 days after you’ve returned home

 

Cons

 

  • The medicine can’t be used by those who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • It’s not suitable for anyone under the age of 18
  • You might not want to take your medicine daily

 

Chloroquine

 
Chloroquine, otherwise known by its brand name Avloclor, works in the same way as proguanil and atovaquone in preventing malaria, but it may be suitable for different people.
 


 

Pros

 

  • It’s a good choice if you’re going on a long trip as you only take the medicine weekly
  • Some people may prefer to take their medicine weekly
  • It can be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but always speak to your doctor or Chemist4U pharmacist beforehand to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby

 

Cons

 

  • You have to take the medicine for 4 weeks after you’ve returned home, which isn’t ideal if you’re going on a short or a last minute trip
  • You might not want to take your medicine weekly
  • Some areas have mosquitoes with chloroquine resistance, making this medicine ineffective against malaria in those places

 

Doxycycline

 
Doxycycline is a type of medicine known as a tetracycline antibiotic. This type of antibiotic works by affecting the growth of the proteins in your cells, including bacterial cells which cause infection. This keeps the malaria-causing parasite from growing and multiplying, preventing malaria from developing as your immune system works to fight it off.
 


 

Pros

 

  • The medicine should be started 1-2 days before you’re due to travel, making it an ideal choice for last-minute travellers
  • You may prefer to take your medicine daily
  • If you’re already taking doxycycline for another condition, like acne for example, you do not need to take any additional medicine
  • It can prevent you from catching additional infections, making it a good choice if you’re planning to camp, hike and swim on your trip
  • It can be used by children aged 12 years and over

 

Cons

 

  • You have to take the medicine for 4 weeks after you’ve returned home, which isn’t ideal if you’re going on a short or a last minute trip
  • You might not want to take your medicine daily
  • Taking an antibiotic can increase your chances of developing antibiotic resistance
  • It can make your skin very sensitive, putting you at risk of sunburn and skin damage
  • The medicine can’t be used by those who are pregnant or breastfeeding

 
 

 
 
Thankfully, malaria isn’t something you need to worry about here in the UK, but if you’re travelling to a country where malaria is a concern, it’s essential that you take an antimalarial and pack a mosquito repellant before you travel.
 
Remember, a mosquito bite isn’t just a regular insect bite – if you become infected with malaria, the consequences can be deadly, so you must seek help right away if you or one of your travel companions start displaying symptoms of malaria. If you need further information about malaria or antimalarials, visit the NHS website.
 


 

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Prescribing Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Prescribing Pharmacist on 13 July 2022
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