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Antimalarial medication is used to prevent and treat malaria.

You should always consider taking antimalarial medicine when travelling to areas where there’s a risk of malaria. Contact our Edinburgh Travel Clinic team as soon as you know when and where you’re going to be travelling.

It’s very important to take the correct dose and finish the course of antimalarial treatment. Our team in Edinburgh are experts when it comes to malaria tablets and will let you know how long you should take your medication for.

Preventing Malaria

It’s usually recommended you take antimalarial tablets if you’re visiting an area where there’s a malaria risk as they can reduce your risk of malaria by about 90%.

The type of antimalarial tablets you will be prescribed is based on the following information:

  • where you’re going
  • any relevant family medical history
  • your medical history, including any allergies to medication
  • any medication you’re currently taking
  • any problems you’ve had with antimalarial medicines in the past
  • your age
  • whether you’re pregnant

You may need to take a short trial course of antimalarial tablets before travelling. This is to check that you don’t have an adverse reaction or side effects. If you do, alternative antimalarials can be prescribed before you leave.

Treating Malaria

If malaria is diagnosed and treated promptly, a full recovery can be expected. Treatment should be started as soon as a blood test confirms malaria.

Many of the same antimalarial medicines used to prevent malaria can also be used to treat the disease. However, if you’ve taken an antimalarial to prevent malaria, you shouldn’t take the same one to treat it. This means it’s important to tell your doctor the name of the antimalarials you took.

The type of antimalarial medicine and how long you need to take it will depend on:

  • the type of malaria you have
  • where you caught malaria
  • the severity of your symptoms
  • whether you took preventative antimalarial tablets
  • your age
  • whether you’re pregnant

Our Edinburgh Travel Clinic team will recommend using a combination of different antimalarials to overcome strains of malaria that have become resistant to single types of medication.

Antimalarial medication is usually given as tablets or capsules. If someone is very ill, it will be given through a drip into a vein in the arm (intravenously) in the hospital.

Treatment for malaria can leave you feeling very tired and weak for several weeks.

Emergency standby treatment

In some cases, you may be prescribed emergency standby treatment for malaria before you travel. This is usually if there’s a risk of you becoming infected with malaria while travelling in a remote area with little or no access to medical care.

Examples of emergency standby medications include:

  • atovaquone with proguanil
  • artemether with lumefantrine
  • quinine plus doxycycline
  • quinine plus clindamycin

Antimalarials in Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, it’s advisable to avoid travelling to areas where there’s a risk of malaria.

Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing severe malaria, and both the baby and mother could experience serious complications.

It’s very important to take the right antimalarial medicine if you’re pregnant and unable to postpone or cancel your trip to an area where there’s a malaria risk.

Some of the antimalarials used to prevent and treat malaria are unsuitable for pregnant women because they can cause side effects for both mother and baby.

The list below outlines which medications are safe or unsafe to use while pregnant:

  • Mefloquine – not usually prescribed during the first trimester of pregnancy, or if pregnancy is a possibility during the first 3 months after preventative antimalarial medication is stopped. This is a precaution, even though there’s no evidence to suggest mefloquine is harmful to an unborn baby.
  • Doxycycline – never recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women as it could harm the baby.
  • Atovaquone plus proguanil – not generally recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding because research into the effects is limited. However, if the risk of malaria is high, they may be recommended if there’s no suitable alternative.

Chloroquine combined with proguanil is suitable during pregnancy, but it is rarely used as it’s not very effective against the most common and dangerous type of malaria parasite.

If you have any doubts or questions please feel free to contact our Malaria Tablets in Edinburgh team and we will be pleased to help you with any questions that you have.