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Malaria Pills: Do or Don’t

Prior to my trip to Brazil last winter, I made a quick stop to the Travel Clinic to get important shots for Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Hepatitis A. The doctor also recommended I take Malaria pills since I was spending 6 days in the Brazilian Amazon. There are several types of Malaria pills: Mefloquine, Malarone, Doxycycline and Fansidar. My doctor recommended the Malarone pills, which I believe are the most common ones. I wasn’t too paranoid about taking the pills even if some other travelers warned me about its side effects.

As my doctor recommended, I began taking the pills 1 day prior to arriving in the Amazon. It’s suggested to take your pill with a full stomach and I did, most of the time. The problem is that it’s difficult to plan all this when you’re on some crazy adventure in the Amazon! And so, I did take my pill without eating and I paid the price for it! The “rare” side effects include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache. And guess what? I experienced sharp abdominal pain and headaches. But the question is: Was it worth it?

I had difficulty sleeping that night so I spend some hours speaking to the tour guide about malaria pills. He suggested that malaria pills weren’t necessary because we wouldn’t too far into the Amazon. He also told me a story about how one of the girls at the lodge had a severe reaction to malaria pills and had to be rushed to the hospital in Manaus. So now what? Should we be taking malaria pills when traveling to malaria prone destinations? My answer is still yes!

Discomfort and pain. I agree. But taking the pills is well worth the pain to avoid the chance of getting malaria. Malaria is transmisted by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Its side-effects would include influenza-like symptoms such as chills, headache and malaise. Although it can effectively be cured at the early stags, it does become increasingly difficult to treat it if you miss the bus. But the thing is that once you have it, you run the chance of bring  stuck with recurrent malaria symptoms for the rest of your life. Is it worth the risk of foregoing the malaria pills? That choice is up to you.

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