How Malaria Is Treated

Malaria, a parasitic infection, causes an illness that primarily affects red blood cells. The symptoms of malaria infection can be moderate, but serious consequences may occur.

Supportive home remedies such as staying hydrated and resting can help you stay comfortable as you recover. However, prescription anti-malaria medication is the cornerstone of malaria treatment. In rare instances, specialized medical interventions may be necessary to manage some of the adverse complications.

The best treatment is prevention. Prevention of malaria with immunizations and lifestyle modifications is recommended if you are at risk of exposure.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

There are no home remedies that can cure malaria infection or prevent its harmful complications, but at-home management can help make you more comfortable while your infection is being treated with prescription medications.

These home remedies can also alleviate some of the common issues that occur with all types of infections. Make sure to:

  • Get enough fluid
  • Maintain adequate nutrition 
  • Stay at a comfortable temperature, drinking warm or cool drinks or using warm blankets or ice packs if you feel cold or hot
  • Get enough rest

Note that while there may be local customs and traditions for people afflicted with malaria infection, there are not effective alternative lifestyle-realated therapies against malaria.

Over-the-Counter Medications

There are a few over-the-counter medications that can help alleviate some malaria symptoms, but they do not cure the infection or prevent complications. Try:

Note that for both of these options, you should consult your doctor to ensure that they're safe to take. Many times, medications that mask a fever can cause you to miss an important sign that something isn't right.

Prescriptions 

There are a number of prescription medications that are used to treat the parasitic infection and a few prescriptions that may be used to control the symptoms of the illness. 

Anti-Malaria Medications 

The most common medications used to treat malaria infection are:

  • Chloroquine
  • Quinine
  • Primaquine
  • Doxycycline
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Mefloquine
  • Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT)
  • Combination of atovaquone and proguanil

One or more of these medications might be effective for you. Often, a combination of medications is used to prevent recurrence and to avoid persistent infections due to medication resistance. Your doctor will select the right medication for you based on several factors, including:

  • Which species of the malaria parasite you might have become infected with
  • The region where you acquired the infection
  • Whether you might have a resistant infection
  • Whether you may have a contraindication, allergy or sensitivity to any of the medications

For example, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have made several treatment recommendations based on the region in which malaria is acquired and the type of malaria species. Some of these recommendations include:

  • According to the CDC, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are recommended for treatment of P. malariae, which is not associated with chloroquine resistance, a problem noted with some other malaria species.
  • The WHO recommends ACTs for treatment of uncomplicated malaria caused by the P. falciparum parasite.
  • According to the CDC, P. falciparum infections acquired in Central America west of the Panama Canal, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and most of the Middle East are not associated with chloroquine-resistant strains and can be treated with chloroquine.
  • According to the WHO, ACTs or chloroquine should be used to treat P. vivax infections in areas without chloroquine-resistant P. vivax.
  • Primaquine can be used for treatment of P. vivax and P. ovale malaria.

Prescriptions for Managing the Illness 

In addition to taking prescriptions that work against the parasite, you might need prescription medications to manage some of the symptoms of your illness, including nausea and pain. These may be prescribed or a specific recommendation may be provided by your doctor.

Prevention

The most powerful tool against malaria is prevention. There are several strategies you can use:

  • Immunization: If you live in an area where you could be exposed to malaria, or if you are traveling to an area where you could be exposed to malaria, you may need to have prophylactic immunization to protect you from the illness. 
  • Mosquito repellent: Sprays that work as mosquito repellents can help decrease the chances of becoming infected with the malaria parasite through a mosquito bite.
  • Physical protection: Wearing clothes that cover your body can deter mosquito bites. It is also often recommended to sleep under the protection of a mosquito tent if you are in an area where malaria-carrying mosquitos are expected to gather while you sleep.
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