Growing up as child with my sibling and friends was fun. Evenings after school were spent out on the streets, playing with other kids and inventing new games. We had so much fun that many times, we wished that time could stop just so that we could play some more in the sand, rolling tires and singing folk songs just before our mothers began to call for us.
This however was sometimes suspended by dreadful moments when malaria came knocking on my door. Everything had to stop to attend this familiar, yet unwanted guest. The unusual ache in my stomach, heaviness of head, joint pains, bitter taste on the tongue that would not go away even after eating a cheap candy, and fever hot enough to warm my bath water were the symptoms that showed that this visitor had come to lodge for some nights.
Malaria with its symptoms was not the only terror I faced, the treatment called CHLOROQUINE was the real terror. To get back on my feet, Chloroquine was the popular and perhaps most effective drug of choice but there was an uncontrollable itch that came with it. I would itch and itch and itch every part of my body. This itching had its way of slowing down the time in an unpalatable manner; 24 hours became 48 hours. When everyone else slept, I was wide awake and miserably alert enough to discover whose snore was the loudest. Sometimes it became so unbearable I’d feel like peeling off my skin. This became even exponentially worse whenever I took my bath.
“Sorry dear” and “Pele” were sung to me in sympathy. At the end of the three days, I would then take coconut water which seemed to stop the itching, however scientifically unfounded. Then later, we learnt that Piriton effectively stopped the itch for others although this never worked for me so I had to complete the Chloroquine dose before the itching could stop.
You can imagine my joy and relief upon hearing that there were newer lines of antimalarial medications, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT), which weren’t accompanied by any itching. Better still, some even had much more convenient dosing making their administration very easy and short. They quickly became my preferred option.
Over the years, I also learnt that prevention is better than cure, so I adopted the following ABCD approach to Malaria prevention, which stands for:
- Awareness of risk – Nobody is completely immune to Malaria, so don’t start feeling like Superman and bare your skin for the mosquitoes to feast on
- Bite prevention – Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellant creams, insecticides, 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 antimalarial tablet at the right dose and finish the course. Many of us fail at this and do not complete our doses. The downside to this is a reinfection and also a buildup of resistance to the antimalarial medication.
- Diagnosis – seek immediate medical advice if you have malaria symptoms, so that you can be placed on the appropriate plan.
With these, I have been able to protect myself better from the unwanted guest, Malaria.