How to avoid Malaria
When I was a VSO volunteer, I was given a whole list of vaccinations (15 injections in total!) and a free supply of anti-Malarials, in the belief it was cheaper to medicate me than to repatriate me! I took the anti-Malarials (Doxycycline) religiously every day for several months…. but then I started to forget.
An expat friend who’s lived in Uganda 12 years advised it might not be a good idea to take anti-Malarials for longer than my two year volunteering stint anyway. When I heard that my British volunteer pharmacist friend Cheryl had stopping taking them too, I stopped taking mine. However, I’m not totally silly. I do take other precautions to try and avoid getting Malaria.
Here are the Muzungu’s travel health tips.
Travel health tips to avoid Malaria
- Firstly, start by reading my tropical disease diary – a few lessons in how NOT to treat Malaria, learned the painful way by yours truly, so you don’t have to.
- Sleeping under a mosquito net is the best. I love the sanctuary of my net, I feel safe. When you’re in a cold part of the country or at altitude, you may sleep without a net. Equally if you’re in a hotel with air-conditioned rooms, mosquitoes won’t thrive.
- Mosquito repellent can be very effective. It’s most needed at dusk. I just smother my feet and ankles with it.
- Make sure you know what the signs of Malaria are and go and have a test straightaway if you show symptoms. Symptoms differ from person to person.
- In my case, Malaria symptoms are: a bad headache for several days (that paracetamol wouldn’t shift); my neck and shoulder muscles seize up and set like concrete; I also have lower back pain; one night I had a fever.
- If you’re travelling outside Kampala, it’s a good idea to take anti-Malarials while you’re away. Buy a test kit and a supply of the prophylaxis so you can self-medicate if needs be. Both are cheap and widely available across Uganda.
- If you’re only in Uganda for a short time, take your anti-Malarials (and follow the instructions carefully). Remember Malaria can be fatal.
- In Uganda, when you feel ill, friends will always suggest you go for a test.
- See a doctor!
- If you get sick back home after your trip however, your doctor may not recognise Malaria symptoms.
- It’s quite common to get a negative test result for Malaria even though you have it. I felt very sick on the eve of travelling to Ethiopia. Although I had a negative test, I believed I had Malaria symptoms. I took the prophylaxis anyway, and lo and behold I felt right as rain. However, some would argue that you should not take the medication unless you really need it, i.e. have a positive result.
- I’ve had Malaria twice. I seem to have been lucky and not been as sick as some other people. At the time of writing, a friend of mine is still in bed after seven days of sickness. Last week she had to have a drip and her temperature was 40°. Another friend was hospitalised and had hallucinations. Malaria can kill, remember.
- Don’t mess with Malaria!
FACT: Did you know the indigenous Neem tree has over 135 medicinal uses? It is a natural repellent to mosquitoes, thus a popular tree to grow in a compound. Putting a small branch of it in your house is an effective mozzie repellent.
Have you had Malaria? Do you have any unusual symptoms?
Do you have any other Uganda travel tips or expat travel advice you’d like to share?
Please leave a comment here or check out the Diary of a Muzungu Guest Post page for more information, I’d love to hear from you!