Families: 'Do our children need to take malaria tablets?'


Q Our children love animals and are now old enough,at three and five, to enjoy a safari. We'd like to visit a game park but I have heard how there are problems giving malaria pills to children. Would it be safest to give them a homeopathic preparation? P Sims, Manchester

A It is possible that health stores may offer non-pharmaceutical products that claim to protect against malaria, but they shouldn't. Channel 4 recently reported that a popular cosmetic brand, Neal's Yard, had been reprimanded by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for selling Malaria Officialis 30c, which was intended as a treatment or preventative for malaria.

The MHRA stopped sales of this product on the grounds that travellers are mislead into thinking they are protected, and the concern is that this could lead to serious illness or even death.

Interestingly the British Homeopathic Association (www.trusthomeopathy.org) an association of health professionals who are also qualified in homeopathy, is clear on warning against relying on homeopathy for malaria prevention. The idea of prophylaxis and immunisation is actually contrary to homeopathy theory. Homeopathy aims to cure using the idea of treating like with like, so it can't be used before the disease has struck.

The first task is to identify whether a destination is malarial. Statistics just released about the cases of malaria imported into the UK for 2007 state that of the 844 cases for which there was information, 81 per cent (704) of travellers had not taken malaria prevention tablets, and a high proportion of the remainder took tablets that were inappropriate for the destination.

The authoritative site which includes a malaria risk map for each country is at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. Good information is also available on www.nathnac.org and www.malariahotspots.co.uk. It is important to be clear that malaria is a very dangerous disease – and it is life-threatening especially in small children and in pregnancy.

The big problem of malaria is that symptoms in children can be very hard to recognise. Serious malaria can – initially, at least – make a child cranky, or a child can simply slip off into a coma. Travelling with the under-10s is challenging because they can just get very sick very fast. And then how do you find a competent medical opinion?

Families planning to travel to Africa can avoid malaria by choosing a non-malarial destination; much of South Africa as well as the southern regions of both Namibia and Botswana are considered low risk. If that isn't possible, bites need to be prevented between dusk and dawn, and – with the help of a travel health advisor – a suitable antimalarial preparation chosen.

Over-the-counter chloroquine syrup gives very little protection in malarial Africa and doxycycline permanently disfigures growing teeth so the choice is between just two effective and suitable preparations: Malarone and Lariam.

Lariam (mefloquine) has suffered from alarmist reports highlighting that a minority of adults experience side-effects ranging from mood alteration to distressing nightmares. These side-effects do not seem to trouble children and the tablets are generally well tolerated by youngsters. Lariam can be taken by anyone weighing six kilos or more and tablets can be cracked into pieces for ease of swallowing. Its advantage is that it is only taken weekly, and it is relatively inexpensive. It needs to be taken for a month after leaving the malaria risk area. Malarone (atovaquone and proguanil) comes in pink paediatric tablets. It is taken daily but only for a week after getting home. It can be used by people weighing more than 10 kilos and is the most expensive of the available malaria prophylactics.

Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

The writer is a GP and author of 'Bugs Bites & Bowels: the essential guide to travel health' (Cadogan, £9.99).



Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Sivero in Goodfellas; Simpsons' wise guy Louie

The sound of Goodfellas mafioso Frankie Carbone demanding $250m in “damages” would be chilling enough on film, let alone in real life.

News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?