How do I Choose the Best Malaria Pills?

C.B. Fox

There are a number of different malaria pills available, and choosing the best ones depends on why a person needs to take them. There are some pills designed to treat active cases of malaria and some that specialize in preventing a malaria infection in the first place. Some strains of malaria are resistant to certain medications, so the type of infection being treated or prevented also plays a role when selecting the best malaria pills.

A mosquito spreading malaria.
A mosquito spreading malaria.

When choosing the best malaria pills to prevent malaria, it is important to consider the region in which a person lives or to which a person is traveling. Certain types of malaria pills are not effective against some strains of malaria. Each country where malaria is considered to be a risk has its own list of recommended medications. Countries such as Argentina and Belize, for example, recommend chloroquine, while many countries in sub-Saharan Africa do not. Checking with an organization such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States before traveling can help a person chose an appropriate malaria medication.

Certain types of malaria pills are not effective against some strains of malaria.
Certain types of malaria pills are not effective against some strains of malaria.

Many regions recommend mefloquine, doxycycline or atovaquone-proguanil—sold as Malarone—to prevent malaria infection. Each of these common malaria medications has its own set of side effects and precautions. Some of them may need to be started up to a month before travel and may not be appropriate for people traveling last minute.

Mefloquine has been known to cause sleeplessness and mood changes and should not be taken if a person has a history of mental health conditions. Doxycycline should not be taken by women who are pregnant or children under the age of eight. Additionally, this medication can cause adverse reactions to sun exposure, which is a consideration for people who will be exposed to lots of sun. Malarone is a combination of two antimalarial drugs and presents relatively low side effects, though it must be taken every day to remain effective. This medication can also be quite expensive if paid out of pocket.

In terms of treating an active case of malaria, most doctors will prescribe multiple types of malaria pills. The medications prescribed often depend on the type of malaria infection and the patient’s response to the different forms of medication. Chloroquine is one of the most effective medications, though there are some strains of malaria that have developed a resistance to this drug. Treating these strains of malaria often requires a patient take a couple different malaria medications together. A doctor will consider the region in which malaria was contracted and the strain of the disease before recommending a treatment.

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