Children and Malaria: Reducing the Risk
British Columbia Specific Information
Malaria is a very serious disease caused by mosquito bites and tiny parasites that get into and multiply in the bloodstream. Symptoms may include headache, abdominal pain, chills, shaking, fever and sweats. Malaria can cause seizures, anemia, jaundice, heart failure, kidney failure, coma, and even death. To learn about malaria and how it can be prevented, see HealthLinkBC File #41f Malaria Prevention, BC Centre for Disease Control - Malaria, and Government of Canada – Malaria.
For specific information on protecting yourself or your children when travelling, see HealthLinkBC File #41a Health Advice for Travellers, HealthLinkBC File #41g The Pregnant Traveller, and HealthLinkBC File #41d Travelling with Children.
Children who live in areas where malaria is present
Malaria causes the death of thousands of children in certain areas of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Young children are especially susceptible, because they have not yet developed any immunity to malaria. Immunity develops through repeated infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to reduce the number of deaths. WHO encourages parents to seek prompt care and treatment, treat other health conditions, and use mosquito-proof bed nets.
Children who travel to areas where malaria is present
If you intend to travel to an area where malaria is present, try to prepare for your trip several months in advance. Learn about the prevention and treatment of malaria in children. The most current information about your travel destination and the risk of malaria is available from:
- Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Your local health unit.
- A travel clinic (which can be located through the International Society of Travel Medicine's website at www.istm.org).
- Your doctor.
It is important to review this information, have your child's immunizations up-to-date, and get any other shots required for your destination. Children are sometimes given the same antimalarial medicines as those given to adults to prevent malaria. The amount of medicine given to a child is based on the child's weight. Overdosage of antimalarial medicines can be fatal. Keep medicines in childproof containers out of reach of children, and give dosages exactly on schedule.
Some health conditions may prevent a child from taking certain medicines, and a less effective medicine may be prescribed instead. If your child is unable to take a highly effective medicine such as mefloquine or doxycycline, it may be best to avoid travel in chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum areas.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel recommend the use of insect repellents containing DEET or icaridin (also called picardin or KBR3023) when travelling in areas where malaria is found. In Canada, DEET or icaridin should not be used on children under 6 months of age. But these agencies feel the risk from getting malaria outweighs the possible risk of a child having a reaction to DEET or icaridin. It is recommended that when travelling in areas where malaria is found 10% DEET or icaridin be used on children under 6 months of age. For older children follow the directions on the package. For more detailed information on preventing malaria, see the PHAC website: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/12vol38/acs-dcc-3/index-eng.php.
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
Current as of: May 22, 2015
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