There's a greater risk of getting malaria if you travel to an affected area. It's important you take precautions to prevent the disease.
Malaria can often be avoided using the ABCD approach to prevention, which stands for:
- Awareness of risk – find out whether you're at risk of getting malaria
- Bite prevention – avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, covering your arms and legs, and using a mosquito net
- Check whether you need to take malaria prevention tablets – if you do, make sure you take the right tablets at the right dose. Always finish the course
- Diagnosis – seek immediate medical advice if you have malaria symptoms, including up to a year after you return from travelling
Being aware of the risks
It's also important to contact your GP or local travel clinic for malaria advice as soon as you know where you're travelling to.
Nobody has complete immunity to malaria. Any level of natural protection you may have had is quickly lost when you move out of a risk area.
When taking antimalarial medication:
- make sure you get the right antimalarial tablets before you go – check with your GP or pharmacist if you're unsure
- follow the instructions included with your tablets carefully
- depending on the type you're taking, continue to take your tablets for up to 4 weeks after returning from your trip to cover the incubation period of the disease
Check with your GP to make sure you're prescribed the correct medicine for you. You may be more at risk from side effects if you:
- have HIV or AIDS
- have epilepsy or any type of seizure condition
- are depressed or have another mental health condition
- have heart, liver or kidney problems
- take medicine to prevent blood clots
- use combined hormonal contraception, such as the contraceptive pill or contraceptive patches
If you've taken antimalarial medication in the past, do not assume it's suitable for future trips.
The antimalarial you need to take depends on where you are going.
Antimalarials only reduce your risk of infection by about 90%, so taking steps to avoid bites is also important.
Stay somewhere that has air conditioning and screening on doors and windows. If this isn't possible, make sure doors and windows close properly.
Sleep under an intact mosquito net that's been treated with insecticide if you're not sleeping in an air-conditioned room.
Use insect repellent on your skin and in sleeping environments. Remember to reapply it frequently. The most effective repellents contain diethyltoluamide (DEET).
There's no evidence to suggest homeopathic remedies, electronic buzzers, vitamins B1 or B12, garlic, yeast extract spread (such as Marmite), tea tree oils or bath oils offer any protection against mosquito bites.
Wear light, loose-fitting trousers rather than shorts. Wear shirts with long sleeves. This is particularly important during early evening and at night, when mosquitoes prefer to feed.
DEET insect repellents
The chemical DEET is often used in insect repellents. It's not recommended for babies under 2 months old.
DEET is safe for older children, adults and pregnant women.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions:
- use on exposed skin
- do not spray directly on to your face – spray into your hands and pat on to your face
- avoid contact with lips and eyes
- wash your hands after applying
- do not apply to broken or irritated skin
- make sure you apply DEET after applying sunscreen, not before
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE