What Are The Ways to Prevent Malaria in Children?
Created by Dr Prabhat Maheshwari Updated on Nov 15, 2019
Malaria is a common mosquito-borne disease in India. It spreads by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito and it bites during night. Hence you need to take precautions that your toddler is covered appropriately. Malaria in toddlers if left untreated can prove fatal.
Is Malaria Seasonal?
Though malaria is prevalent throughout the year, the numbers of cases shoot up during the monsoon season. So yes, this is the time when you as mommy need to be extra careful about the mosquito bites and prevent your baby or toddler from mosquito bites.
What Are The Early Symptoms Of Malaria In Toddlers?
Symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, vomiting, headache, lethargy and altered consciousness. These symptoms are non-specific and may be present in many other acute febrile illnesses. This may lead to delayed or missed diagnosis, which may cause worsening of disease with potential complications. While early diagnosis and adequate treatment are needed for a favourable outcome, prevention of the disease remains the best strategy to tackle malaria. But in any case do watch out for these symptoms and if you find two or more symptoms together immediately consult your paediatrician. The symptoms include
- cough and cold
- poor appetite
- diarrhoea, often with green stools
- stomach pain
- some toddlers may show a sign of low body temperature (hypothermia) instead of a fever
- rapid or shallow breathing
How To Treat Malaria In Toddlers?
Malaria treatment in toddlers is a mix of medical treatment and healthy diet that your doctor prescribed for your toddler. There are anti-malarial medicines that are administered to the babies and toddlers to treat malaria in young children. The treatment is based on the results obtained by the blood smear test by the paediatrician.
How Does Malaria Spread in Babies And Toddlers?
When an infected Anopheles mosquito bites a healthy person, the malaria parasites are transferred into that person. The parasite takes shelter in the liver and once they mature the parasites travel from the liver to the bloodstream. The malaria parasites also spread through an infected person bitten by a healthy mosquito. The healthy mosquito becomes infected immediately and then goes and bites some healthy toddler; the toddler becomes infected.
How to Prevent Malaria in Toddlers?
There are 5 simple steps that you need to follow to prevent malaria in your toddler and babies, also to ensure that your child is healthy and safe.
Things to remember while using repellents
- Be aware of peak exposure times and places: Exposure to mosquito bites may be reduced if we modify our patterns or locations of activity. Although mosquitoes may bite at any time of day, mosquitoes spreading malaria are most active in twilight periods (dawn and dusk) or in the evening after dark. Avoiding the outdoors or taking preventive actions (such as using repellent) during peak biting hours may reduce risk
- Wear appropriate clothing: Children can minimise areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and boots. Tucking in shirts and wearing closed shoes instead of sandals may also reduce risk. Repellents or insecticides, such as permethrin, can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection
- Using bed nets: Bed nets are very important in providing protection and reducing discomfort caused by biting insects. If bed nets do not reach the floor, they should be tucked under mattresses. Bed nets are most effective when they are treated with a pyrethroid insecticide. Nets treated with a pyrethroid insecticide will be effective for several months if they are not washed
Use of repellents: Repellents like DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) are recommended to prevent mosquito bites. Most repellents can be used on children aged less than 2 months except for OLE, which is not recommended below 3 years of age. The most commonly used repellent is DEET, which is recommended to be used in a concentration of less than or equivalent to 30% on children aged less than 2 months
Apart from these 5 steps, we should also take care to not let mosquitoes breed in our homes and vicinity. Preventing children from mosquito bites may not only save one from malaria but also from other dangerous diseases like dengue and Chikungunya.
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- Repellents should never be used over cuts, wounds or irritated skin
- Avoid the child’s eyes and mouth and apply sparingly around ears
- Do not apply repellents on children’s hand as they tend to put their hands in mouth
- After returning to indoors or safe areas, treated skin should be washed with soap and water
- Products that contain both repellent and sunscreen are not recommended. If needed use them separately. In general apply sunscreen first and then repellent
- Use of Chemoprophylaxis: If one is travelling from a low-risk malaria region to a high risk (endemic) malaria region, use of certain medications on the advice of your doctor may help to prevent malaria. Type of drug recommended is based on the pattern of resistance to the disease organism in the area of travel.