About treatment of malaria
There are a number of medicines that can treat malaria if you start taking them soon after your symptoms appear. Certain medicines don't work for malaria from some parts of the world - your doctor will ask where you have been and take this into account.
Some of the medicines that are used to treat malaria are the same ones used to help prevent the infection. But if you have taken a medicine to prevent malaria, you can't take the same one again as treatment. So it's important to tell your doctor about any medicines you have taken. It might help to take the packaging along with you if you can.
Availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Ask your doctor for advice on your treatment options.
Treating mild to moderate P. falciparum malaria
Depending on which country you are in and the likelihood of resistance to the medicine by the parasite, you will probably be treated with an antimalarial combination therapy. This is two medicines that can be used to kill the malaria parasite in different ways. By taking the two medicines at once, the parasite’s resistance to the medicine is reduced and the treatment works better.
Your doctor may recommend:
- artemether + lumefantrine
- artesunate + amodiaquine
- artesunate + mefloquine
- artesunate + sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine
Artemether can cause side-effects such as feeling sick, vomiting and abdominal pain but you generally only have to take them for a short time (around three days).
If you have recently travelled to a malarial region but have returned to a country without a malaria risk, your doctor may prescribe:
- quinine plus doxycycline or clindamycin
Common side-effects of quinine include feeling sick and ringing in your ears (tinnitus), but these should stop when you stop taking it. Side-effects from atovaquone-proguanil and artemether-lumefantrine can include skin rashes, tummy pain and fever.
If you have P. falciparum malaria, you will usually need to stay in hospital for at least 24 hours for monitoring. This is because it can rapidly progress to a more severe infection.
Treating other forms of malaria
The treatment for non-P. falciparum malaria is chloroquine tablets. You can take chloroquine if you're pregnant. Side-effects of chloroquine can include vomiting, diarrhoea, tummy pains and itching.
If you have malaria caused by P. vivax and P. ovale, you will need longer-term treatment to stop the infection coming back, because parasites can stay in your liver. Primaquine is the usual medicine. Side-effects of primaquine can include vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy pains. It isn't suitable for everyone, for example you can't take it if you are pregnant.
If your illness is mild, you will probably be able to take your medicines at home. However, you will need to go to hospital if you develop complications or need medication through an intravenous drip.
Treating severe malaria
Two treatments are available to treat severe P. falciparum malaria. The first type is quinine and quinidine and the second type is the artemisinin derivatives (artesunate, artemether and artemotil). Both of these are effective and the treatment you will be given will depend on what’s available. Chloroquine is no longer recommended for the treatment of severe malaria because of widespread resistance.
If you have severe vivax malaria, this is treated in the same way as severe falciparum malaria.
If you have severe malaria, you need to be monitored carefully and treated for any complications. The severity of malaria usually depends on the number of red blood cells infected with parasites.
There is no scientific proof that any herbal and homeopathic remedies can prevent or treat malaria and they aren't licensed for these uses. It may put you at risk if you rely on these remedies to prevent or treat malaria.