Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can I stop taking my malaria medication once I return home?"
I took malaria medication before and during my trip. Now that I?m home is it safe to stop taking my meds?
Malaria is an important cause of fever in returning travelers and can even progress to be a serious illness. Approximately 1700 cases of malaria were reported in 2010 to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are many different parasites that cause malaria. More than half of the reported cases are due to Plasmodium falciparum, however other species such as P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and P. knowlesi have all been reported to cause malaria in humans. Susceptibility of these parasites to medication varies depending on the region you travel to, and not all parasites are susceptible to all medications in all areas. Because of this variability, your doctor may have prescribed you any one of several malaria medications depending on where you traveled. It is important to take your malaria medication exactly as recommended by your physician, because most travelers who develop malaria do so because they did not take their prescribed medication properly. It is important to take malaria medication before, during, and after traveling to an area where mosquitoes are likely to carry malaria. The length of time to continue taking malaria medicine after your last possible exposure (i.e. leaving the country) varies depending on both the type of malaria present in the country you visited and the type of drug you are taking, and ranges from one to four weeks. Every returning traveler should make an appointment to see their primary care physician as soon as possible after returning home. This is very important because you doctor needs to perform a complete history and physical to ensure you have no symptoms of malarial infection, which is a critical piece of information needed to determine how long to continue preventative anti-malarial drugs and whether other treatment may be needed. Only a doctor who knows you well, and preferably the one who prescribed you the anti-malaria medication, can make the determination of the right length of time to continue medication in your case, so make an appointment as soon as possible.
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