You can take medicines called
antimalarials to prevent and treat
malaria. Malaria is a very serious disease, and its
presence in many regions of the world is well known. So if you are traveling to an area where malaria is present, it is important to reduce the risk of infection by taking medicine before you travel, while you are in the area, and after you return home. Which medicine you take is based on:
- The country or areas in which you will be
resistance of malaria parasites to certain medicines
in the area where you will be traveling.
- Your health condition (for
example, whether you are pregnant, elderly or young, sick, or have immunity or
resistance to malaria).
It is important to know which species of parasite is
present, because serious complications may develop rapidly in a person who is
infected with Plasmodium (P.) falciparum. Drug treatment
is based on:
- The species of parasite. If you are infected
with P. falciparum,
life-threatening complications can develop rapidly.
Infection caused by one of the other four species of malaria parasite is rarely
- The density of parasites. If the percentage of
red blood cells infected (parasite density) is over 5%, treatment may include
medicines given directly into a vein (intravenously, or IV) rather than
medicine taken by mouth.
- Your health condition. You are at higher
risk for having complications if you are pregnant, elderly, very young, or
have a weak immune system. Different medicines may be prescribed for people in
- Drug resistance in the geographic area where the
infection occurred. For instance, in many areas P. falciparum is resistant to the drug chloroquine.
During malaria treatment, your doctor may
do daily blood smears to follow the course of the infection. Most
medicines for malaria are ones you take by mouth. But you might get intravenous
(IV) medicines if there are complications or your condition gets worse. If there
are no complications, your fever will clear in 36 to 48 hours. And most
parasites will disappear from your blood within 2 or 3 days.
The medicines used may change as malaria parasites develop resistance and as new medicines are developed.
There are several medicines for preventing and treating
Medicines to prevent malaria
A doctor or local health department can consult the CDC for
specific treatment guidelines for your travel destination. Standard medicines
for preventing malaria include:
- Chloroquine. You can take chloroquine to prevent P. falciparum and P. vivax infections in areas where
medicine resistance to chloroquine has not been
- Doxycycline. You can take doxycycline
if you cannot take mefloquine. Women who are
pregnant and children younger than age 9 should not take this
- Malarone. Malarone is a combination of two
antimalarial medicines (atovaquone and proguanil). Malarone is taken to prevent
malaria caused by P. falciparum.
- Mefloquine. You can take mefloquine to prevent malaria infections unless the malaria parasite in the area you're visiting is resistant to mefloquine. Do not take mefloquine if you
have a history of active or recent
depression or other mental illness, seizures, or some types of heart-rhythm problems.
- Primaquine. You take primaquine to prevent relapses of
P. vivax and P. ovale malaria. You should be tested for
glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency before