Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa – Spend Good Money on Anti-Malarials!

April 12, 2015

Amy Trumpeter

If you’re travelling to certain parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Asia, you will need to consider anti Malaria tablets. Do not travel without antimalarials or travel insurance, as you’re putting your health at risk. Also please remember that my blog is the story of my allergic reaction in Rwanda, and is not intended as medical advice.

Off to the Travel Clinic in Preparation for Rwanda

When I booked to travel to Rwanda, I made an appointment with the nurse at my local GP practice. This was to make sure that I had all the injections up-to-date that we needed to protect me against disease during my travels.

I looked at the world map on the wall in the surgery which planned out areas of the world where you are at risk of certain diseases. On Rwanda I saw the deepest and most intense red! I then looked at the nurse and she said ‘Rwanda, you will need everything!’

I am now protected from almost every disease under the sun, including Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. To get into Rwanda you actually need a yellow fever certificate, although this is rarely practised that customs. Anyway, the great news is that I am now covered for most diseases throughout the world for up to 25 years. Bring it on!

Rwanda is a High Risk Country for Malaria

There was the issue of the antimalarials, of course. Rwanda is an extremely high risk country for Malaria, and it is almost as common as the flu in the UK.

I knew that there were several options for anti Malaria tablets, but due to my restricted finances at the time, I went for Doxycycline. The more effective drug with less side-effects (generally), Malarone, is much more expensive. However, I would highly recommend that you don’t let price influence your decision on anti-malarials. I am about to explain why…

Why I spend good money on antimalarials - allergic reaction to doxycycline

My Allergic Reaction to Doxycycline Anti-Malaria Tablets

I started to take my doxycycline anti-malarial tablets as recommended by the GP, the week before my flight. So by the time I was about to take a flight from London Heathrow to Kigali, via Addis Ababa , the antimalarial tablets doxycycline were well into my system.

I usually travel very well and experience few problems other than a little air-sickness and ear-popping. Yet this journey ended up being particularly uncomfortable for me.

I met a great guy called Daniel on the plane to Addis Ababa and we shared a beer before our connecting flight.

However, by the time we boarded the plane for Kigali, I felt extremely uncomfortable. My skin became oversensitive, and it was uncomfortable for me to having to have anything touching it, including my clothes! I can’t believe that I am actually blogging about this, but I even had to go into the toilet to remove my bra and pants in order to travel comfortably! At this point, I could see quite a severe rash on my body.

Now, I was sharing a room with a wonderful girl, who had only known me for 24 hours by the time she had to check my rash! We even asked a guy I had met once at breakfast – Jonny, a medical student, to come and see it! People were concerned. By this time the blotches were so big and I couldn’t have any clothes touching my body whatsoever! Slightly embarrassing.

I then remembered the tablets – these were the only thing that I had changed, and I hadn’t even been in the country long enough to catch any tropical diseases. The side effects of the doxycycline included rash, nausea and extreme sensitivity to sunlight. So there it was. I stopped taking the tablets, and my rash and sickness was gone within 48 hours. My health improved very rapidly indeed, and I still managed to start the Gender Based Violence volunteer project at the scheduled time.


Malarone are the Best Anti Malaria Tablets for Me!

Needless to say that the second time I returned to Sub-Saharan Africa, I changed my anti Malaria tablets. I changed from Doxycycline to Malarone, and I do wish that I had gone for Malarone first time round. They are more expensive, but they have less side effects for me.

If you are worried about cost, apparently you can see your GP about taking them and order online cheaper, although I have yet to try this.

If you do take Doxycycline, or any anti-malarial for that matter, and have an allergic reaction, seek medical advice immediately.

Which Antimalarials should you Take?

Of course, different people can have different reactions to different antimalarials or indeed any medication. Always seek medical advice from a qualified doctor before taking any medication.

Have you ever experienced any problems with anti Malaria drugs while travelling?

You might also like to read about Rwanda Today and Should I Pay to Volunteer?