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Malaria Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Malaria Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Malaria is something we all have heard of, but some of us might want a refresher course on the exact details.

Malaria is a deadly and life-threatening disease spread mainly through the bite of mosquitoes.  

When mosquitoes bite, they push their saliva into us while taking our blood out. If an infected mosquito bites someone, the saliva spreads malaria, among other diseases. Mosquito saliva contains certain proteins that all humans are allergic to. A person’s sensitivity to this allergy is what varies people's reactions. 

This allergic reaction to mosquito saliva also causes the itchiness and red bumps that are also associated with mosquito bites. 

What Is Malaria?

Malaria is the disease most often associated with mosquitoes. It is indeed spread through mosquito bites, mainly from four to five specific species and only by the female mosquitoes. (Male mosquitoes only drink nectar from plants. The females need the proteins flowing through our bloodstream to lay eggs.)

Malaria is often confused with other diseases as they share many symptoms, such as chills and fevers. However, malaria can cause its own set of disastrous problems, including death, if it remains untreated. 

Thankfully, malaria has many easily recognizable symptoms that can make the person bitten aware that they need medical treatment quickly.

Why Malaria Prevention Is a Top Priority

Malaria is a disease plain and simple. It kills 409,000 people every year in the entire world. Malaria, by no means, is limited to tropic/subtropic areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, or South America. Thousands of cases occur all over the world.

Mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases and even cause dangerous allergic reactions. Malaria, in particular, is known to cause kidney failure, mental confusion, seizures, comas, or even death. These are all very possible if a timely diagnosis and treatment are delayed.

Symptoms of Malaria

When you hear malaria, what first comes to mind? For most people, it is mosquitoes. This infection is complex and can vary based on the type of malaria. 

For example, cerebral malaria is known to cause seizures, excess fluid in the lungs, or even result in a coma. Other types of malaria are quartan malaria and tertian malaria. 

 What are the common symptoms? 

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Malaise (Feeling lightheaded, unease, discomfort for no apparent reason)

Less common symptoms can be anemia or jaundice. Jaundice is often associated with the skin and eyes turning yellow (usually from liver damage). Anemia refers to the lack of red blood cells that makes you weak and tired. Both of these symptoms occur because of the loss of blood cells busy fighting the spreading disease.

Symptoms can show up anywhere from ten days to a month after the initial bite. However, severe sickness and the full recognition of the disease can be anywhere from a week to a year! This disease has the scary ability to be very hidden for a very long time, making treatment more difficult.

How Do You Get Malaria?

Malaria is spread by the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes. It can be spread through blood transfusion or sharing infected needles in some cases. Pregnant women infected with malaria may also pass this on to their fetuses. 

Malaria is not like strep throat or the flu or lice or pink eye—all things children often get and usually quickly recover from, sometimes more than once. Our kids get those kinds of sicknesses all the time, but malaria is not as common as these conditions. While that thought is comforting, mosquitoes transfer this disease very effectively, so we must stay vigilant in protecting our little ones. 

As simple as it seems, there is a lot going on behind the scenes when it comes to mosquito bites. That is why we must be careful about watching our kiddoes after their initial bite and administer the right things to keep them at their healthiest. 

Okay, So How Do I Avoid Mosquitoes Then?

Plenty of mosquito repellents are readily available at most stores, especially during the summertime. There is an entire market of products whose sole design is to repel, trap, or kill mosquitoes. But what really works?

The first thing you can do is get the malaria vaccine. This vaccine is extra important for children and the elderly, who are the population most at-risk for mosquito-related diseases. 

There are more than a few things in this market that claim to work, but in fact, do not do what they advertise. Such products include bug zappers, mosquito repellent bracelets, and citronella or mosquito repellent candles. Mosquito traps have varying degrees of success depending on the specific mosquito trap you use and its intended target. Bug zappers are very good at killing every bug except mosquitoes. 

So what does work? Mosquito repellent sprays and stickers. Most mosquito repellent sprays contain high concentrations of DEET, which is not safe for children. DEET can melt plastic, so, suffice to say, it’s not something we want on our babies.

The Natural Patch Co. Has Your Back

If effective sprays all use chemicals that can be harmful to your children, then what do you use? The answer is stickers.

The Natural Patch Co. created an array of colorful emoji stickers that contain essential oils proven to repel mosquitoes to protect your children from both mosquitoes and the chemicals introduced by mosquito repellents. We named these revolutionary patches: BuzzPatch.

Never worry about the harmful effects of DEET or chemical mosquito repellent spray every again. Leave the days of fighting your children to get them properly protected behind. Say a fond farewell to the crocodile tears that come after your kids accidentally rub mosquito repellent in their eyes.

BuzzPatch is attached to clothing, so it does not have to touch your child’s skin. What’s even better is that it works for us adults, too! Not only is this super convenient for packing diaper bags, camping kits, and more, but your kids will have a blast matching the adult they admire the most: You.  

Treatments For Malaria

There are more than a few options to choose from when treating malaria. These treatments can become quite costly, especially somewhere where medicine is already a prized commodity. 

Some common medications include Artemisinin drugs like Mefloquine, Doxycycline, or Chloroquine.

Treatment differs from person to person—age, weight, gender, and medical history determine which treatment is best. First, the illness must be confirmed as malaria. It cannot be a guess but must be a completely sure thing. 

After it has been confirmed through laboratory testing, then the following four things must be considered when determining the optimal treatment course:

  • Infecting Plasmodium species: Each species has differing types of aggression, and thus some will be more deadly than others, so the specific species must be identified. Also, some species are less susceptible to certain drugs. 
  • Clinical status of the patient: Malaria cases are either severe or uncomplicated, and these determine the urgency of the treatment.
  • Expected drug receptivity to the parasite: This pertains to the specific geographic area where the patient was bitten. 
  • Previous use of antimalarials: If the patient was bitten while using drugs used for a previous bite, then it is pivotal to use a different treatment.

After whatever treatment or drug the doctors decide to give the patient is administered, the patient must be watched. This ensures that the treatment is working and that it is not causing other complications for the patient. Safety is of the utmost importance.

Insect Repellents Are a Necessary Precaution

So what is the takeaway?

Mosquitoes are bad news. They carry diseases like malaria and transfer these conditions through their saliva, which they spread with their bites. Malaria can have many harmful side effects that may even result in death.

Malaria symptoms can be commonly confused with other diseases' symptoms.  As soon as you think you or a loved one has malaria, get tested right away. The proper treatments can only be given after the case has been confirmed.

And, as always, be prepared with insect repellents to create a no-fly zone for mosquitoes. An ounce of prevention... 

 

Sources:

Malaria - About Malaria - FAQs | CDC

Malaria | WHO

Malaria - Diagnosis & Treatment - Treatment (US) - Guidelines for Clinicians | CDC

Species diversity and distribution of Anopheles mosquitoes in Bure district, Northwestern Ethiopia | NCBI