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When to Seek Medical Care for Malaria
Risk factors include recent history of travel to an area in which malaria exists. If one has traveled to such an area and develops a high fever, he/she should seek urgent medical evaluation at a facility where malaria blood smears can be promptly performed, such as a hospital's emergency department. Additional risk factors in travelers to malarious areas include not taking preventive medications or not using precautions to prevent mosquito bites. However, neither medications nor mosquito precautions are perfect, and travelers should not overlook any fever that occurs while in or after being in malarious areas. Complications most often occur when symptoms or signs of possible malaria are ignored or diagnosed late in the course of illness. Pregnant mothers who have been exposed to malaria are at high risk for severe disease. Malaria can be cured with early diagnosis and treatment.
Many diseases cause fever in the tropical and subtropical world, including malaria, tuberculosis, yellow fever, dengue fever, typhoid, pneumonia, and many more. Each of these is managed differently. Thus it is very important to make a specific diagnosis.
Malaria is diagnosed by seeing the parasite under the microscope. Blood taken from the patient is smeared on a slide for examination. Special stains are used to help highlight the parasite. Sometimes, it is possible to identify the species of Plasmodium by the shape of the parasite, especially if gametocytes are seen. Whenever possible, smears should be reviewed by someone with expertise in the diagnosis of malaria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide this expertise (http://www.cdc.gov). If the smears are negative, they can be repeated every 12 hours. Smears that are repeatedly negative suggest another diagnosis should be considered.
Two types of other tests are available for diagnosis of malaria. Rapid tests can detect proteins called antigens that are present in Plasmodium. These tests take less than 30 minutes to perform. However, the reliability of rapid tests varies significantly from product to product. Thus, it is recommended that rapid tests be used in conjunction with microscopy. A second type of test is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which detects malaria DNA. Because this test is not widely available, it is important not to delay treatment while waiting for results.
Malaria Home Remedies
Malaria requires prescription medications and can be fatal if left untreated. Any traveler to areas where malaria is endemic who develops a fever up to one year after leaving the area should seek urgent evaluation for malaria, regardless of preventive treatment. There are no effective home remedies for malaria, and individuals must seek urgent medical care and follow all medical instructions carefully.
Milder cases of malaria may be treated at home with oral medications and fluids. Severe infections require IV drug therapy.
People who have malaria should drink lots of fluids. Hydration will not treat or cure malaria, but it will reduce side effects associated with dehydration.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/1/2015
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