I think it’s fair to say that nobody wants to die on their travels around the world. Death avoidance 101 begins with preventing malaria. Naturally, as a traveler it’s important to always try to care of ourselves and dodgy diets do us no favours, so whether you’re munching down multivitamins, spirulina tablets, echinacea or whatever, every little helps. But they don’t protect against Malaria….
Having spent the best part of a year in Africa during 2010 and a good few years trotting around Asia all without contracting our favourite mosquito-carried parasite, I’m going to give you the lowdown on how you too can prolong your life that little bit extra…
What drugs should I take for malaria?
Good question and although there a numerous different options – there are 3 main choices that people tend to go with, all of which profess to be around 98% effective:
1) Doxycycline: This is the drug of choice by backpackers worldwide – why? Because it’s the cheapest. It’s highly effective and cheap as chips. You should take it with water and food to stop yourself getting quesy, but if there’s no food around it’s no big deal, you’ll be fine!
Generally, in Western countries, these cost around .50 cents (30p) a pill. You take it daily so a 6 month trip will cost ya less than $100. If you have the confidence (and sense) to wait and buy it when you arrive somewhere, like Thailand for example, you’ll more than halve your cost.
Doxy can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so sunburning on this pill can be common, not ideal when you want to lounge on a beach in the Philippines somewhere :S
POSTIVES: Cheap cheap cheap and easy to get everywhere, including the countries you plan to visit
NEGATIVES: Increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills (hear that ladies, be smart!), can cause nausea.
COST PER 6 MONTH TRIP: $100 or less, much less if you buy it abroad.
DURATION: Start two days before travel, throughout your stay in an endemic area and continue for four weeks after return
2) Malarone: The flashpackers’ choice, at a cost of $3+ a pill and a daily dosage your 6 month stint is gonna cost you over $500! But with little or no negatives it’s without doubt the ‘best’ pill in terms of prevention vrs side effects.
POSTIVES: Higly effective AND you only have to take it for one extra week after your trip
NEGATIVES: Pricey at $3 a pill to be taken daily
COST PER 6 MONTH TRIP: Upwards of $500
DURATION: Start two days before travel, throughout your stay in an endemic area and continue for one week after return.
3) Larium (Mefloquine): Hmmm what to say about this wonderful drug?! I took this for months in Africa and the rumours of crazy dreams are 100% true, this stuff does crazy stuff to your brain after dark. Quite funny in fairness, especially if a few of you are taking it! Anyway, it’s not much more expensive than Doxy, you only have to take it once a week (a big plus for a forgetful guy like me)
POSTIVES: Only have to take it weekly, pretty cheap
NEGATIVES: Crazzzzy dreams for the first month or two until you get used to it
COST PER 6 MONTH TRIP: Around $150
DURATION: Start two and a half weeks before travel, throughout your stay in an endemic area and continue for four weeks after return.
I should also note that Chloroquine (in addition to proguanil) is another anti-malarial drug that crops up now and again. From meeting people on the road, and internet research I’d stay clear of this – mosquitoes demonstrate widespread resistance!
Ok guys that’s the general vibe on anti-Malarial drugs. I have taken doxy on a crazy Chinese cargo boat trip through Burma, Thailand and China – it was fine, no side-effect at all. Then I took Larium throughout my time in Africa (until I got bored and stopped taking them) and again, aside from vivid dreams, was fine again. The choice is yours – happy travels!