Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Malaria is an infection caused by a parasite that involves the blood cells, liver, and nervous system. It is transmitted from one individual to another by a specific type of mosquito common to tropical and subtropical areas. The parasite multiplies in the mosquito, then enters the human bloodstream during a bite. The parasite then travels to the liver and multiplies rapidly. It then reenters the bloodstream where it destroys the red blood cells. Some parasites stay in the liver and are released at a later time, causing intermittent attacks. Malaria can be diagnosed by examining a blood sample under the microscope. Complications include anemia and clumping of the blood cells, which can cause kidney damage.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Signs and symptoms of the disease can occur 10– 35 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. During the first 2 or 3 days, there may be an irregular low-grade fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and a chilly sensation. Then there is the “cold stage”—hard shaking chills that last 1 or 2 hours— followed by the “hot stage.” The hot stage includes a high fever for 12–24 hours with rapid breathing and heavy sweating. These attacks can come and go every 2 or 3 days. Without treatment they can last for years.

Prevention of a secondary infection is necessary, so washing your hands frequently is essential. Your doctor will prescribe an antimalarial drug to kill the parasite. You must take the medication as directed and have frequent follow-up blood tests to make sure the parasite doesn’t recur. Side effects of the medication include stomach upset and headaches. You should rest in bed during the period of fever and chills. Normal activities should be resumed gradually. No special diet is needed, but fluid intake should be increased because of the fever and sweating. A multivitamin supplement will be helpful during recovery.
The DOs
• Protect others by making your environment mosquito free.
• Rest in bed during the attacks of fever and chills.
• Take the antimalarial medication as prescribed and until finished.
• Increase fluid intake during the attacks.
• Resume normal activities gradually.
• Wash your hands and bathe frequently to prevent secondary infections.
• Maintain adequate nutrition.
• Take a vitamin supplement during recovery.
• Take preventive medications when traveling in a country in which malaria occurs. To find out which countries pose a risk for exposure to malaria, call the Traveler’s Hot Line at 404-332-4559.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t skip any doses of the medication or stop taking it because symptoms have gone.
• Don’t donate blood until cleared by your doctor.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you are weak for a long period after an attack.
• If you can’t tolerate fluids.
• If you have any recurring symptoms, such as fever and chills, after treatment.
• If new symptoms develop.
• If you have severe side effects from the medications.

www.healthfinder.gov (Choose SEARCH to search by topic.)