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Should I worry about malaria?



Mosquitos - Potentially Dangerous Pests

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Question: Should I worry about malaria?
Answer: Malaria, a creepy insect-borne disease found in warm areas, is a very real travel worry if you're heading to a country where malaria is prevalent, like many countries in Africa. Check out a malaria map from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to learn whether malaria is an issue in countries to which you will be traveling.

Let's learn about malaria symptoms, malaria prevention (including malaria pills), and treatment.

How Does Malaria Spread?

    Malaria is a blood-borne parasite carried by mosquitos, which give it to you via a bite.
What Are the Malaria Symptoms?

    If you've got malaria symptoms, you may feel like you have the flu. Malaria symptoms include fever and chills, the shakes, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue, according to the CDC. Malaria symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and loss of red blood cells (a malaria consequence) may also mean yellow coloring of your skin and eyes, as in jaundice, and anemia symptoms.

    Malaria symptoms usually manifest ten days to four weeks, but as early as one week or as late as one year, after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC.

    Some varieties of the disease can lay dormant for up to four years. The parasites hibernate and when they re-emerge in your blood, you'll experience malaria symptoms again.

Is There a Malaria Treatment?

The CDC says malaria can be cured. You must get the right malaria treatment right away, though. You may want to see a doctor pronto in the country you're visiting if you have malaria symptoms -- if it were me, I wouldn't worry about hustling back to the USA. I've been to doctors in third world countries, and I've always been perfectly safe and gotten well. Travelers say you should assume local doctors are likely to know what kind of mosquito gave you which variety of malaria and thus give you the right treatment.

Malaria Prevention

Simple enough (hah): prevent mosquito bites. I almost never get bitten by mosquitos while traveling, and I'll try to keep it that way -- the old ounce of prevention thing makes a whole lot of sense to me here. Mosquito repellent is prevention method number one.

    Mosquito Repellent

    Mosquito repellent with stinky DEET is the best mosquito protection -- the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, endorses DEET, an ingredient in some insect repellents, as an anti-malarial agent (the CDC is an international health watchdog for US citizens). Use DEET-heavy insect repellent carefully -- it's powerful stuff. I rub a few drops of Ben's (my favorite DEET-containing insect repellent) between my palms, and lightly pat hair and clothes. Keeps me bug-free without having to rub DEET right into my skin.

    If you don't like the smell of DEET (and who does?), check out mosquito repellents containing picaridin (pick-CARE-a-den), which is also endorsed by the CDC. And the CDC says that oil of lemon eucalyptus will repel mosquitoes as well as as low concentrations of DEET.


    I usually wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and even shoes and socks in mosquito territory (and drink a lot of water cuz I sweat like a dog under all that fabric). I recently got some Ex Officio Buzz Off clothing -- duds with insect repellent built in -- and I love 'em. It seems weird to wear chemically-treated clothing, but it's cool stuff and it works:

    • Compare Prices Women's Buzz Off Off Mosquito Repellent Clothing

    • Compare Prices Men's Buzz Off Off Mosquito Repellent Clothing

    Mosquito Netting

    You may also want to carry an insect net -- a portable bed screen that can be strung up around any bed. Mosquito netting is a great idea in buggy country, anyway -- keeps all kinds of many-legged beasties from sharing the sheets with you.

    Is there a Malaria Vaccine?

    There is no malaria vaccine. You may want to learn about other travel vaccinations, though:

More Reading on Insects, Disease and Travel

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