Malaria: Symptoms and Treatment
February 04, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

Malaria: Symptoms and Treatment

Malaria is a dangerous and often lethal blood disease, which is caused and spread by a particular type of parasite-infected mosquitos called the Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitos feed on humans and therefore give the disease to whoever they get into contact with.

This disease is especially dangerous because of how quickly the symptoms escalate. There are different parasites that cause this mosquito-borne disease, and the severity of the disease depends on the type of parasite. Because different parasites originate from different parts of the world, the symptoms and severity of malaria in one part of the world may differ from the very same disease in a different part of the world.

Symptoms of Severe Malaria

The symptoms differ in cases of severe malaria and uncomplicated malaria. When the disease is severe, one of the major symptoms of it is vital organ failure, which in most cases is fatal. There is a high fever that is accompanied by chills and impaired consciousness.

The affected person’s body may even go through convulsions as well as respiratory distress. There is also an abnormal amount of bleeding in the case of severe malaria, which can often lead to the person becoming anemic. Jaundice is also a symptom of severe malaria.

Symptoms of Uncomplicated Malaria

However, in uncomplicated malaria, there is no dysfunction related to the vital organs. Also, the symptoms that do occur last about 6-10 hours with a day’s gap in between. Different strains of the parasite can cause different cycles of the symptoms, however if left untreated or if the host’s immunity is low, uncomplicated malaria can quickly escalate into severe malaria.

Since the symptoms of uncomplicated malaria resemble those of the flu, it is possible for the disease to remain undiagnosed in its less severe state, particularly in areas where this disease is uncommon.

The symptoms include both hot and cold sweating, shivering, and a sensation of cold. Seizures are more common in younger hosts, but fever, headaches, and vomiting are all common symptoms of malaria in adults and younger people both.

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment for malaria basically tries to eliminate the parasite from your system. Even people who don’t experience the symptoms can be treated for the infection to prevent any further spread of the disease among the population.

To treat uncomplicated malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends ACT which is an artemisinin-based combination therapy. ACT greatly reduces the number of parasites within the first few days of infection and a partner drug often administered by the doctor helps in reducing the number of parasites that are left behind.

The bad news, however, is that the disease is quickly becoming resistant to the drug and often works only if administered with a powerful partner drug. Since there is currently no vaccine that cures the disease, hosts have to rely on antimalarial tablets to reduce the risk of infection. With that being said, it’s clear that the best way to steer clear of this disease is prevention.

There are several ways you can avoid getting bitten by mosquitos because that is the primary source of the disease. You can protect yourself by staying in places that are air-conditioned or sealed by screen doors and windows.

If you don’t have air conditioning, you should sleep under a mosquito net that has been treated with insecticide, to keep them at bay. You should also apply insect repellent on your skin, particularly skin that is exposed, however, your goal should be to wear loose-fitting clothing that exposes as less skin as possible, especially at night when it’s their feeding time.

When it comes to malaria and general healthcare, Shifa4u has some great resources that can help you learn more about the disease and how to tackle it.


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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.