What Is Malaria?

Malaria is a parasite-caused illness. The parasite is passed on through the bites of infected mosquitoes to humans, also known as a malaria mosquito. For centuries, malaria has been a rising concern in India. The overall socio-economic effect is catastrophic for several affected countries, which for the most part, are classified as developing, poor and tropical countries.

The cost of prevention and control of malaria measures are thus worthwhile, given that the affected population and the nation have to face disabilities, deaths, economic decline, and industrial inefficacy. Malaria, once a rural epidemic, diversified into different ecotypes under the pressure of advancements. Unbridled urbanisation, drought, worker migration, and weak control efforts are all leading to India’s resurgence of malaria and are expected to worsen the problem in the coming years.

Irrespective, it is imperative that people possess knowledge regarding malaria causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. In this article, we have tried to collate everything you need to know about the disease, starting with its symptoms.

Symptoms of Malaria

In the early stage, the symptoms of malaria appear similar to bacterial and viral infections. However, the symptoms are more likely to be prominent within 10 days to four weeks after the infection.

Some common symptoms of the diseases are as follows:

  • Shaking chills that can be moderate to severe depending on the infection
  • High fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Anaemia
  • Muscle pain
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Bloody stools

In some rare cases, the symptoms may not even develop for several months. This is because the malaria parasite that enters the body is dormant for a longer duration. Besides, severe cases of malaria can be fatal if proper treatment is not provided on time.

Causes of Malaria

Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite of the genus plasmodium. This parasite is transferred to humans via malaria mosquito bites. The points below explain the transmission cycle that causes malaria, also known as the malaria life cycle.

1. Uninfected mosquito

As we know, malaria is caused by an infected female anopheles mosquito bite. This is the only mosquito type that is capable of transmitting the disease. By biting an infected person and extracting blood that contains the parasite, the mosquito becomes infected. When it bites another individual, that person is infected with malaria.

2. Malaria parasite transmission

When the infected anopheles mosquito bites you, the malaria parasite is transmitted into your body. Note that only when you are bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite or when you collect infected blood from someone during a blood transfusion, the chances are that you will get malaria.

3. In the liver

Once the parasite enters your body, it travels to the liver region. In some cases, the malaria parasite lies dormant in the liver for years before the actual infection is triggered. If it is triggered, the parasite multiplies in the liver region.

4. Travels into the bloodstream

As the malaria parasite matures in your body, it will continue to enter the bloodstream and invade the red blood cells. Eventually, the red blood cells that are infected burst, sending the parasite across the body and induces malaria symptoms.

5. Infecting the next person

Further, if another uninfected anopheles mosquito bites you, it becomes infected with your malaria parasite. It then can spread to other people and the malaria life cycle will repeat.

Besides the infected female anopheles mosquito, malaria can spread through exposure to infected blood, which includes:

  • From mother to unborn child during pregnancy
  • Through blood transfusions
  • Sharing needles and drug injections

How is Malaria Transmitted?

It is evident that malaria is transmitted by blood. The carriers for the infection are as follows:

  • Mosquito bites
  • Organ transplant
  • Blood transfusion
  • Mosquito bites
  • Using shared needles or syringes

If malaria symptoms are visible, get diagnosed and start the treatment immediately.

Diagnosis Of  Malaria

Your doctor will be able to diagnose malaria after performing a physical exam. During this time, the doctor can review your health background and travel history. The doctor will also be able to determine if you have an enlarged spleen or liver. In case the symptoms of malaria are evident, the doctor may ask you to undergo blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.

The blood test will show the following:

  • Whether you have malaria or not
  • If yes, then it states the type of malaria
  • If the infection is due to a particular parasite, the report mentions its resistance to certain drugs
  • If the infection has caused anaemia in the patient
  • If the infection has affected the vital organs of the patient

If malaria is not treated on time, it can lead to life-threatening complications. This includes the following:

  • Swelling in blood vessels of the brain, known as cerebral malaria
  • Accumulation of fluid in the lung region causing breathing difficulty, known as pulmonary edema
  • Failure of various vital organs like kidney, liver, or spleen
  • Anaemia
  • Low blood sugar

Treatment for Malaria

If malaria treatment is delayed, it can get life-threatening. This is especially true when the parasite P. Falciparum infects you. Usually, your doctor will prescribe the needed medications based on the type of malaria infection. In some cases, malaria patients might have to get hospitalised for a full recovery.

On the other hand, some prescribed medications may not reflect any results as the parasite is resistant to the drug. In this case, the doctors may suggest you to more than one medication or change your prescription altogether.

Some malaria parasites such as P. Vivax and P. Ovale tend to live in your body for a longer duration, delaying the symptoms. Furthermore, this can also lead to relapses of the infection in most people. The doctors usually provide a second medication to prevent relapse in the future.

Besides, research scientists are developing a malaria vaccine for the prevention of malaria. However, at the moment, the malaria vaccine is under experimentation and is not available for public use.

Home Remedies for Malaria

Home remedies are not effective in malaria treatment. It is essential that you get adequate medical attention when you contract the disease. However, there are a few things that you can do at home to relieve the pain caused by the symptoms of malaria or prevent yourself from the infection altogether. These are as follows:

  • Consuming Citrus Fruits:

 Citrus fruits are well known as immunity boosters. These are readily available in all tropical regions. Vitamin C from the fruits helps control the fever, stops the infection from spreading, and contributes towards recovery. Lemon water, oranges, and sweet limes are high in Vitamin C. The patient can eat or drink juices of the same, depending on their condition.

  • Cinnamon:

In case of intense headache, fever, and diarrhoea, you can consume cinnamon as it has an anti-inflammatory quality. It helps reduce the pain and relieve other symptoms of malaria as well.

  • Ginger:

Ginger is another anti-malaria medication. Boil a small quality of ginger in water and reduce it into a concoction. The antibacterial quality of ginger prevents the spread of malaria and relieves its symptoms.

  • Grapefruit:

Grapefruits is known to be an elixir of life in the case of malaria. It helps neutralise the harmful effects of the malaria parasite. Consuming it daily will help combat the illness and recover from it.

  • Basil:

Basil has an antibacterial quality and contains Eugenol. It is extensively available in tropical regions and is used in ayurvedic medications. You can research the health benefits of basil leaves online before eating.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar:

Add a spoon of apple cider to water and dip a cotton cloth in the mixture. Place it on your head often, as it is known to reduce fever during malaria. Drinking the mixture can help deal with nausea and vomiting.

  • Fever Nut:

Fever nut helps reduce body temperature, which is very effective in the case of malaria symptoms. You can consume the fever nut seeds with water during your recovery.

Prevention of Malaria

World Malaria Day is celebrated globally on April 25 each year. It recognises global efforts in preventing malaria. Malaria infection may be completely prevented if it is detected early on. Many factors impact the choice, including:

  • If the medication is used for malaria treatment or prevention.
  • The area where you visited
  • Your condition (e.g. age, pregnancy, health).
  • Whether the malaria parasite is resistant to such medicines.
  • The seriousness of the disease
  • Your health history

Your age, health and the use of medication to prevent malaria are essential factors.  Special care is needed for pregnant women, infants, senior citizens, people with existing health issues, and those who have not used medication to avoid malaria infection.

Besides, here are a few tips for the prevention and control of serious malaria cases.

Tips to Prevent Malaria

  • Wear long trousers and sleeves and light-coloured garments.
  • As mosquitoes are night feeders, to avoid being bitten, stay away from danger zones, particularly fields, woods, and swamps, from dusk to dawn.
  • You can use a mosquito repellent spray to prevent the female anopheles mosquito from biting.
  • Besides, you get mosquito repellent lotions to apply to the body. You will find lotions for babies and adults readily available in the market.
  • Depending on the type of prescription, malaria treatment and prevention typically lasts for 3 to 7 days. In order to kill the parasite, you have to take the medicine for the entire prescribed duration – don’t quit taking the medicine, even though you feel better.

Conclusion

Depending on the symptoms, the severity of the malaria infection can be determined. As malaria causes many deaths and can be a concern for many in India, it is pivotal to know remedies that suit you the best.

Besides, proper medical care and guidance are needed for a full recovery from malaria. While this brings in significant expenses, it is best to have an adequate health insurance plan covering malaria treatment and hospitalisation costs.

It is always best to be prepared for any medical emergency (planned or sudden) and seek a best-in-class healthcare facility for proper recovery.

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