Signs and Symptoms of Malaria

Signs and Symptoms of Malaria

tips for preventing malarial infection

Signs and Symptoms of Malaria

Spending a well-deserved vacation in a tropical or subtropical climate sounds like a little slice of heaven. While these areas are beautiful and mysterious, they also come with a few warning labels, one of which is the potential for contracting malaria. Whether you are on safari in Africa or exploring the wonders of India, keep an eye out for these symptoms so you can act quickly and prevent further complications.

First of all, what is malaria?

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that is most often transmitted by an infected Anopheles mosquito. Once the mosquito bites you, the Plasmodium parasite is released into your bloodstream and travels to your liver to mature. The parasites begin infecting red blood cells and continue to multiply. Within 48 to 72 hours, the infected red blood cells burst open and the parasites move on to find more cells.

Common signs and symptoms

Symptoms of malaria typically start appearing 10 days to four weeks after infection, and they occur in cycles that last 2-3 days at a time. Since malarial parasites can lay dormant for a while, some people may not experience symptoms for several months. Common symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • High fever
  • Moderate to severe shaking chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Bloody stools

Other symptoms

Since Plasmodium parasites infect and destroy red blood cells, malaria can result in anemia (too few red blood cells in the blood). Red blood cells carry hemoglobin and vital oxygen to the cells of the body, so a decrease in their number can cause:

  • Sluggishness
  • Exhaustion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Heart palpitations.

Severe malarial complications can lead to convulsions, coma, swelling of the blood vessels, pulmonary edema, low blood sugar, organ failure, and even death.

Treatment options

Fortunately, malaria can be treated with medical care. Your doctor will run some tests to determine the type of parasite you have, and then prescribe medication to clear the infection. Some drug-resistant parasites have been reported, so you may need to use more than one medication to treat your condition. The long-term outlook for people who receive treatment for malaria is typically good, though if you suffered complications as a result of malaria, you may have a more difficult road to recovery.

When to see a doctor

If you experience any of the above symptoms while living in or after traveling to a high-risk malaria region, you need to talk to a doctor at once to begin treatment. For severe symptoms, please seek emergency attention as soon as possible.

Handy tips for preventing malarial infection

There is no vaccine to prevent malaria, so talk to your doctor prior to traveling to an area where malaria is common. You may be prescribed antimalarial medication to help prevent infection. Other preventative measures include:

  • Sleeping under a mosquito net
  • Covering your skin
  • Using bug spray that contains DEET
  • Staying indoors at dusk and nighttime

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