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Traveling to Malaria Hot Spots

If you could travel, would you? Seeing new places and meeting new people can be an adventure. But, there are more considerations before you travel than just fun. If you are heading for a malaria hot spot, there are a few things you need to know.

What Is Malaria?

Malaria is a disease that is carried by the mosquito. An infected mosquito cannot be picked out from all other mosquitoes, so it is best not to be bitten by one at all. When a mosquito bites, it feeds on the blood of the host (most likely you). The parasite is passed along to your blood. It then travels to the liver.

The parasite infects red blood cells. When it is completed reproducing, the cells burst and infect more red blood cells. Since red blood cells carry life-giving oxygen to the organs of the body, you become depleted of oxygen.

A person with the disease will exhibit fever and other flu-like symptoms. You can become a carrier yourself if bitten by a non-infected mosquito, which can then transfer the parasite from you to another host. If not treated, malaria can result in death.

What to Know Before You Go

While it is not against travel regulations to travel to a country that is a malaria hot spot, you need to protect your health and that of others by getting all the information that you need up front.

Study up on the country you are going to visit. This is a good rule of thumb anyway, but especially for health reasons. You don’t want to be at the mercy of a country with poor medical care. Find out what diseases are prevalent and dangerous to non-native travelers.

If you are planning an overseas trip, preparation is usually made months or even a year in advance. This is enough time for you to get together with your doctor and discuss plans to protect yourself. Tell them that you are going to a malaria hot spot and then follow their instructions.

The earlier you can start your preventative treatment, the better off you will be. Doctors will prescribe anti-malarial drugs. They are usually started before you leave to build your immunity and continued during the trip and when you return. Malaria can lie dormant in the body for months or even a year, so it is advised to take all of your drugs as prescribed to kill any latent parasites.

Pack the appropriate anti-malaria gear. This includes a mosquito repellent that contains at least fifty percent DEET. All uncovered skin needs to be sprayed as well as clothing. Even if it is a hot place, cover up as much as possible. At night, sleep with a mosquito netting impregnated with insecticide to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Where are you traveling? If malaria is a problem there, it could be a big problem for you if you don’t take precautions and protect yourself before you travel.