Malaria is an infection caused by a single-cell parasite, which is transmitted by the bite of an anopheles mosquito. Body parts involved include the blood cells, the blood vessels, the liver, and the central nervous system--including the brain, the coverings of the brain (meninges), and the spinal cord -- and peripheral nerves.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Hospitalization (severe cases).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSHeadache.
Hard, shaking chills with fever for 12 to 24 hours.
Heavy sweating, accompanied by a drop in the child's body temperature.
Episodes may recur every 2 or 3 days until the disease is treated. Without treatment, the disease can continue for years.
The first episode of the following symptoms usually occurs about 8 to 30 days after the mosquito bite:
CAUSESThere are 4 types of malarial parasites; they are transferred from person to person by a mosquito bite. The mosquito becomes infected with malaria after biting a person with the disease. The organisms multiply in the mosquito, then enter the bloodstream of the next person the mosquito bites.
Once in a person's bloodstream, the parasites travel to the liver, where they thrive and multiply rapidly. After several days, thousands re-enter the bloodstream and destroy red-blood cells. Some parasites remain in the liver, continue to multiply, and are released again at intervals into the bloodstream.
RISK FACTORSCrowded or unsanitary living conditions.
Hot, humid climates.
Geographic locations, such as Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Malaria is uncommon in the U.S., but it often affects travelers or military personnel and their families stationed in foreign countries.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Urge your child to take anti-malaria drugs before visiting an area where malaria is prevalent and to continue to take the drugs after returning. The public health department or your doctor can give you instructions.
If you live in a mosquito-infected area, destroy mosquito breeding areas, install window screens and mosquito nets over beds, and use insect repellents.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor. Tell your doctor of your child's recent travel.
Laboratory studies, such as studies of blood smears to identify the parasite.
Anemia caused by blood-cell destruction.
Clumping of blood cells, which may cause brain or kidney damage.
Usually curable in 2 weeks with treatment. Malaria can be fatal without treatment in children (or adults) who don't receive adequate nourishment or have low resistance to disease.
Protect your child from secondary bacterial infection while ill with malaria. Urge your child to wash hands and bathe often.
Make your environment mosquito-free so the infection cannot be transmitted to others. See
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe anti-malaria drugs to kill the parasite.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child should rest in bed until fever and chills subside and can then resume normal activities gradually as symptoms improve.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet. Give vitamin and mineral supplements until your child recovers.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Only when signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of malaria.
Your child is weak for a prolonged time after an attack. This may indicate anemia.
Symptoms of malaria recur after treatment.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.