How to prevent malaria and stay mosquito-safe in the monsoon season

A mosquito on skin
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by mosquito bites. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 7 Jul 2024, 09:02 am IST
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A life-threatening disease, malaria is caused by a parasite. It is spread through the bite of infected mosquitos and can make it very sick. Therefore, steps that can lead to the prevention of malaria are very important. The symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache as well as nausea and muscle pain. The disease generally lasts for two weeks, but people may take longer to recover. So, it is best you know how to prevent malaria by staying safe from mosquito bites.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that is spread to humans by infected mosquitos. It is more common in tropical countries, states the World Health Organisation. It states that children under the age of five years, pregnant women, travellers and people with HIV or AIDS are at greater risk of catching malaria. 5 parasite species cause malaria in humans, with Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax being the most threatening. The WHO also states that in 2022, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria, adding that significant cases and deaths were reported from Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas.

How does malaria spread?

Malaria is not contagious and does not spread from person to person. The only way to catch malaria is through the bite of an infectious mosquito. The New York State Department of Health states that the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito leads to malaria. Also, the transfusion of blood, from an infected malaria patient, or the use of contaminated needles or syringes can cause malaria. If a person is untreated or not treated adequately, can also inadvertently spread malaria to a mosquito that bites them. If this infected mosquito bites someone else, they, too, will get malaria.

A woman scratching her arm
Malaria symptoms include fever, chills, sweating and headache. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Symptoms of malaria

The National Institute of Health states fever, chills, sweating, headache, and weakness as symptoms of malaria. It might look like a viral fever. If left untreated, it can result in an abnormal level of consciousness, severe anaemia, renal failure, and multisystem failure. It is observed that nausea and vomiting, Diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cough can also accompany other Malaria symptoms. The study lists three stages in a malaria paroxysm or a sudden attack:

  • The first is a 15-to-60 minute known as the Cold stage. Here a patient is shivering and feels very cold.
  • The hot stage is next. This is a two-to-six-hour stage wherein a person will run a fever. They will also have flushed, dry skin, and often headache, nausea, and vomiting.
  • The sweating stage is the last one. This is a two-to-four-hour sweating stage. Here, the fever breaks rapidly and the patient sweats.

How to prevent malaria?

There are some ways that malaria can be prevented.

1. Malaria medication or antimalarial drugs

If you are travelling, taking the malaria medication in advance can be one way of preventing the disease, states the CDC. This needs to be done keeping the place you are going to and the medicine you are prescribed by the doctor. The medication might need to start a few days before your trip.

2. Select an EPA-registered insect repellent

Only insect repellents containing DEET or Picaridin can prevent the spread of malaria. What DEET does is it stops the mosquitoes from sniffing out areas to attack exposed skin. The US Environmental Protection Agency states that every year, nearly one-third of the US population uses DEET-repellents to protect themselves from illnesses such as West Nile Virus, the Zika virus or malaria. You can find products containing DEET in the form of liquids, lotions and sprays.

3. Cover up well

It is very important to not leave too much skin exposed as this can increase mosquito bites. Long sleeves as well as pants can often help you prevent mosquito bites. A study, published by BMJ, observed that travelers who wore trousers and long-sleeved shirts prevented malaria.

4. Treat clothing and objects with permethrin

The CDC states that using 0.5 per cent permethrin to treat clothing as well as other things such as boots and tents, can help prevent malaria. Permethrin is an insecticide that repels and even kills mosquitos. When clothes are repeatedly treated with permethrin, they start to provide protection. However, make sure to not use this directly on the skin.

5. Be aware of the risk

Especially if you are travelling, it is important to be aware of how malaria can be caused and make sure you are not exposed to those conditions. Keeping your windows and doors closed might also help in preventing mosquitos from entering your environment. The CDC adds that sleeping under a mosquito net can also provide protection.

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6. Take prompt action

If you showcase symptoms of malaria, make sure to get yourself checked at once. If you have recently travelled, or are pregnant, you are more at risk. Kids, especially, must be shown to the doctor at once if they showcase symptoms. Here are some more guidelines by WHO.

A woman spraying sunscreen
Only insect repellents containing DEET or Picaridin can prevent the spread of malaria. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Is there a malaria vaccine?

According to the CDC, there are two malaria vaccinations available for kids or people living in high-transmission areas. These vaccines help in reducing uncomplicated malaria by 40 per cent and severe malaria by 30 per cent. It reduces mortality by 13 per cent as well. You can read more about the vaccines here.

WHO states that RTS, S malaria vaccine is recommended, and can be given to children under the age of 5 years as well. Other vaccinations under development might also be useful.

How to recover from malaria?

If you have been diagnosed with malaria, your doctor will provide you with suitable drugs to kill the infection. This must be started at the earliest. Some antimalarial drugs include Artemisinin drugs (artemether and artesunate), Atovaquone, Chloroquine, Doxycycline, Mefloquine, Quinine and Primaquine.

It is also very important to eat healthy. Drinking hydrating juices, as well as having a protein and vitamin-rich diet can go a long way. Read more about it here.

Summary

Malaria is a life-threating disease and the prevention of malaria is of paramount importance. You can prevent malaria by preventing mosquito bites. This can be done by using the right insect repellents, covering up, and using malaria medications in advance.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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