Malaria – What Drug You Should Take to Prevent It!

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

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!

 

34 thoughts on “Malaria – What Drug You Should Take to Prevent It!

  1. Pingback: Travel Articles You Should Read - La Viajera Morena

  2. Michael Williams

    Hey mate, i thought your little run down was spot on. Just what i wanted/needed as im sure as a lot of others, so great idea to post. Its always good to hear from those who have the experience.
    As with everything in life you have to do your research and take all with a pinch of salt. As eveyone should take responsibility if they dont its their own fault. You will always get those that nit pick and are negative so i wouldnt worry as such. Off to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand in a few weeks and cant wait! :O)
    Thanks again!

    Reply
  3. Michael Williams

    Hey mate, i thought your little run down was spot on. Just what i wanted/needed as im sure as a lot of others, so great idea to post. Its always good to hear from those who have the experience.
    As with everything in life you have to do your research and take all with a pinch of salt. As eveyone should take responsibility if they dont its their own fault. You will always get those that nit pick and are negative so i wouldnt worry as such. Off to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand in a few weeks and cant wait! :O)
    Thanks again!

    Reply
  4. Alex Reeves

    Hey Johnny, thanks for your knowledge and experience with these malaria treatments. You seem like you know quite a bit about malaria and so we were wondering if you could give your thoughts on our malaria app. It’s an app that displays malaria tweets from around the globe and hopefully we can use this to increase awareness of malaria through social media. You can find it here: http://www.malariapp.com

    Thanks Johnny!

    Reply
  5. Katy

    I’m no doctor – but before coming out to Kenya for 3 months this summer I was told that Malarone can’t be taken for more than 6 consecutive weeks (and I was told that by a doctor) …

    Reply
  6. Simon

    It starts with a bzzz past your ear as your about to fall asleep in a $5 guesthouse. Lights on. Grab a bat. A book. A gun. I’m in the middle of the room all but naked and pouring sweat. it’s been like this every other night for the past – well since the start of the trip. But i’m getting good at this now I have been studying their habits. Turn off the overhead fan they use the drafts like trade winds. I stand in the middle of the room, slow movements. This is the only way I will be able to sleep… kill the brute.
    It’s true they like black. A sweep across the room at all things black, then swipe at everything black. A damp towel comes out, open another beer it’s me vs mosquitos.

    In a few days I leave for India i’m expecting a few battles

    Reply
  7. Dee Quixotic

    Wow! I could really use these information. Covering up by pants and long sleeves is much wiser, I guess. And avoid black apparel! Based on my observation, the tiny suckers love black. I noticed one time during my rainy hiking expedition, our guide in black shirt is followed by more than a dozen of mosquitoes.

    Reply
  8. safari wizard

    Anti-malaria drugs taken a few days before traveling to Africa can ensure you are safe. Efforts are underway to eradicate the disease and it has been a major success at Zanzibar so other countries can follow the example.

    Reply
  9. Phil

    Hey Johnny,
    Great, balanced look at malaria prophylactics. I would add a treatment option that is easy to carry as well: coartem. It is a great emergency stand by given that the prophylactics are not 100% effective themselves and you could forget doses here and there etc. I have had malaria twice. Once in ’05 in benin and then again this past fall in cote d’ivoire. Both times I missed doses and it is my own foolishness that most likely lead to me contracting it, but in each instance I was carrying coartem and my suffering was minimized. One brutal 24 hour stretch and then relief started soon after. It is a very fast acting drug and I would recommend having a box on hand, especially if you are in rural areas. Will cost about $8 at a developing world pharmacy. Love posts like this, very helpful and practical info.
    B well,
    Phil

    Reply
  10. PlanJapan

    Johnny, I am honestly shocked. The only advice about taking malaria tablets you should give is the advice about seeing your family or, better, travel doctor before your trip, to discuss pros and cons of each medication that would suit the location you are going to and the person’s general health.
    Sorry, but a travel blog is NOT the place to acquire medical advice! No offence, OK, but advice like this could be dangerous.

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey :) if people want a quick rundown on the anti-malarial drugs available and the truth about the general pros and cons, now they have it… Relax!!

      Reply
      1. PlanJapan

        Johhny, it is just about personal responsibility – you have a popular blog and people listen to you.
        There are some idiots out there who instead of getting a proper medical advice, would take anything on the web at face value! Like those who keep buying fake cosmetic injectables and penis enlargement pills online.
        I would put, at least, a BIG disclaimer that a doctor should be consulted before taking anything. Some drugs are ineffective for certain types of mosquitos, so it’s not just about the price or side effects.

        Reply
        1. Johnny Post author

          ok ok, when i was heading to africa i was baffled by all the options available – an article like this is exactly was I was looking for! So, now i know this stuff, i wrote it and hopefully it’ll help someone in my position next time around. It goes without saying you should have a quick word with your doc before you take any pills but at least now people have an idea about whats going on :)

          Reply
      2. textibule

        There’s a reason that bloggers offering medical advice generally prefer to mention ‘none of what I write here replaces professional medical advice”. So I tend to agree with planjapon, Johnny, that even if you’re full of good intentions, you’ve overstepped your bounds.

        And there are other things to consider. You can take anti-malarial pills out the wazoo, but they won’t help against dengue fever (which has no preventative treatment and apparently really sucks). Intelligent preventative measures, mentioned by several commentors here, work against both dengue and malaria (lots of repellent, long sleeves, mozzie nets, etc).

        If you don’t feel like taking pills every day, it is possible to self-medicate after the fact if you think you’ve got malaria, and you’re far from help. As soon as you feel symptoms you can pull out your 15€ rapid diagnosis kit, and if positive for malaria (20 minutes to result), pop 4 malarone (or Coartem) per day, for 3 days. 97% cure rate.

        Reply
        1. Johnny Post author

          hey,

          thanks for the comments. But i really don’t think i’ve ‘overstepped my bounds at all’, I’m trying to get the message across that generally speaking (and of course there are exceptions) illness on the road are just not that a) common b) life threatening. I had friends who got malaria, no big deal. There’s such a taboo associated with it and i wanted this article to dispel the myth

          Furthermore, when i was planning my trip to Africa this article is EXACTLY what i was looking for but i couldn’t find it – so i wrote it. Now people can get a real idea about the options.

          P.S I’ve had dengue, again it sucks – but no massive drama

          Reply
          1. Melissa

            I just read this string…haven’t finished reading it, but felt like I needed to say: calm down people commenting sayijng that you should consult your doctor only!…..people travelling and looking for advice will turn to the internet for opinion….this is just what this is…

            Taken with a grain of salt and I couldn’t agree with you more: “There’s such a taboo associated with it and i wanted this article to dispel the myth”. Right on!

            Melissa.

  11. Ross

    I got Malaria when I went to India, and I have to say it was horrific, there was no proper hospital, i was in the middle of virtually a desert in a place called Hampi. It was my own fault I didn’t take the tablets properly because they made me feel sick and none of my friends were taking then and they had been fine.

    Defo take them !!!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      ooops! ok ok, ignore my suggestions listen to Ross! Cheers for the heads-up mate, wow so you go malaria, now you win every ‘travel story’ contest forever though right? Every cloud :P

      Reply
      1. Ross

        Yes I got it here http://hampi.in/ i was with friends, had they not been with me i would have def died as they had to carry me to the local doctor who took me to the hospital in the next town.

        My arms went into a spasm and i couldn’t stand up, it was 44 degrees. :D

        so take the anti maleria medication

        Reply
  12. Nicole @ WomanSeeksWorld

    Thanks for the summary…Im going to India in a couple of weeks, and apparently Chloroquine is the best here, rather than the others due to resistance and mosquito type. I hope this is true anyway after reading your post!

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey Nicole – india, what a crazy country, i love it :) hope u have a great time, i didn’t actually bother with any anti-malaria pills in the times I’ve been there but always better safe than sorry i guess, good luck and hope u have a blast!

      Reply
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  14. Jon

    I’ve got another negative to add to Malarone! I’ve taken it on a few month long stints in Africa and South American and each time it has given me some wicked bad canker sores (as in having to dip my sandwiches in coffee to make them edible bad). For years I thought it was just my bodies immune response to foreign bacteria but I recently discovered it was due to the Malarone. Looks like next trip I’ll be enjoying pleasant dreams!

    Reply

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