Archive for the 'Self Medical Education' Category

Keeping Malarial Mosquitoes Off Your Back

I don’t like mosquitoes.  They buzz in your ear, suck at your blood, and worst of all are carriers of malaria in tropical parts of the world.  Since no one likes malaria either, the name of the game is avoiding mosquitoes altogether.  My previous post talked about all the various prophylactic medications you can take, but there are other things you can do to lower the chances of an intimate rendezvous with a mosquito.  After all, it’s really just a game of statistics.

Buy Spray – The malarial mosquitoes are often a little bigger and a little nastier – so buy a bugspray that is also a little more potent.  You definitely want a spray with 5%-35% DEET.  DEET is the good stuff when it comes to insect repellent.

Wear Long Sleeves – I showed up in Africa like a complete rookie.  Logically (I thought) the weather would be hot and tropical, so I brought t-shirts and shorts.  Wrong.  I ended up wearing my one long-sleeve shirt and one pair of pants almost everyday.  Because of me, Americans must have an interesting fashion reputation in Yaounde. Anyway, I was constantly sweaty, but I left without malaria.  You should also wear light colors because mosquitoes are less attracted.

Mosquito Nets – You should have them.  None of the Cameroonians had them, and I also did have one, but it’s highly recommended. Rather be safe than sorry.  The nets should also be sprayed with either pyrethrum, which comes from chrysanthemums, or permethrin, its synthetic twin.  They’re basically just insecticides to create one additional layer of deterrence.

Indoors – Mosquitoes are active in the evening and night.  Be sure to shut windows later in the day and check the screens for major holes.  Prior to entering sleeping quarters, it’s also wise to spray the room with some insecticide to kill any loitering bugs.

The reality is that avoiding mosquito bites is nearly impossible, especially since the African ones I encountered were silent and bit you without causing a commotion. However, if you combine the ability of prophylactic meds and basic prevention techniques, you should be close to 99% safe.  And if you get malaria, it’s treatable and you’ll probably be fine.  Happy travels!

Preventing Malaria: Medications

Areas affected by malaria.

If you’re planning a trip to Africa, South/Central America, or Asia, malaria is a legitimate concern.  Malaria is a very serious parasitic infection that kills about 1 million people annually and is transmitted by mosquitoes.  However, there is good news. There are numerous ways to lower the chances of ever contracting malaria and even if you do, it is highly treatable.

One of the ways to mitigate the risk of contracting malaria is by taking a chemoprophylaxis, or antimalarial drug.  Below is a list of some common drugs prescribed for travel to areas of the world with malaria risks:

Lariam (Mefloquine) by Roche

  • Weekly tablet
  • Cheaper than Malarone (fewer pills to buy)
  • While extremely rare, a study reported higher adverse neuropsychiatric events (Dark Side of Lariam)
  • Have to start taking it 4-6 weeks prior to departure + 2 weeks after
  • Comprehensive Lariam Side Effects

Doxycyclin (general antibiotic)

  • Side effects that can be mitigated
  • Cheap, Generic
  • Daily tablet
  • Likely to sunburn faster
  • Nausea
  • Can lead to yeast infections

Malarone (atovaquone and proguanil hydrochloride) by GlaxoSmithKline

  • Causal prophylaxis
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache can occur
  • Can make you sick enough to discontinue use
  • Expensive

Chloroquine (Aralen) (can be found generically)

  • Resistance in parts of the world (map)
  • May worsen psoriasis

When it comes to effectiveness, they are all about equal.  However, daily pills put greater responsibility on the user to take it at the same time every day, otherwise the effectiveness decreases.  To make a proper choice for your needs, visit your local travel clinic and doctor.

This site also has lots of good info.

Look for part 2 of malaria prevention coming later this week!

Managing Your Upcoming Hangover

New Year’s Eve might be one of the best nights of the year and for good reason as it is the last opportunity to rock out on behalf of the past 364 days.  While New Year’s Eve is euphoric, it comes into stark contrast with New Year’s Day – the most pounding, irritable, unpleasant day of the new year.  Of course it’s the only day of the new year at that point, but it’s also international hangover day.

The question I sought out to answer was how to minimize, cure, or eliminate the effects of the hangover.  Let me first explain generally how hangover symptoms happen.

Hangovers are relatively poorly understood compared to other disease states primarily because researchers are more interested in alcohol abuse and addiction.  What they do know is that alcohol affects your body in a few ways:

1)      Dehydration/Fluid loss

Alcohol inhibits the production of a hormone that helps you retain water and keep you hydrated called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) sometimes called Vasopressin.  Blocking the secretion of this hormone causes you to urinate more often, thus losing water. Continue reading ‘Managing Your Upcoming Hangover’