Each year three million children worldwide die from malaria, most of them in Africa. Malaria is the most serious and life-threatening disease that children can get when travelling.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. These are at their most active from sunset to sunrise. Effective protection against the disease involves minimising the risk of mosquito bites, supplemented with anti-malaria tablets. Start by checking the bedroom: if possible sleep in a room with air-conditioning or at the very least under a mosquito net. Even during the day children should wear light clothing with long sleeves and trousers. Protect exposed parts of the body with an insect repellent. Many of these products contain DEET. Those containing a concentration of above 30% are not recommended for children under two years of age. It is also important not to use such products on a child’s hands or face (to avoid ingestion).
Many anti-malaria tablets for children are the same as those for adults, only the dose differs. However some tablets should not be given to children. Doxycycline is suitable from the age of eight and Malarone should only be given to children who weigh more than eleven kilograms.
The first signs of malaria may closely resemble flu or in infants a high-temperature with fever. The disease can then develop rapidly into a severe form. Children are at the greatest risk of complications such as shock, coma and even death.
Medical help is necessary for the treatment of malaria. The sooner a child receives this, the better the chance of recovery. Keep a close eye on children during the trip and consult a doctor immediately if any suspicious symptoms develop.