It is not advisable to take toddlers and babies to areas where malaria is present but if you decide to do so, it is necessary to take a number of precautions. Remember that babies and toddlers cannot take anti-malarial drugs and so it is vital that you prevent them from being bitten by mosquitoes.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that is characterised by fever, chills and sweating. Malaria can be a serious illness in children, especially those under five years old. There are four strains of human malaria. Plasmodium falciparum is the most serious strain, and the only one that may be fatal. This same strain is the one responsible for most of the drug resistance around the world.
The factors which will affect your risk of acquiring malaria include; your destination, the length of your stay, the time of year (for example, cases of malaria soar during monsoon season) and the precautions you take. Some of these factors will vary depending on the country that you are visiting. Before booking your trip check the ‘NHS Fit for Travel’ website to assess whether there is a risk of malaria and when the risk is highest.
Personal measures such as DEET- containing repellents and mosquito nets are extremely important in preventing malaria. Malaria is often misdiagnosed and mistreated in travellers who return home so if you have been to a tropical country and on your return your child becomes ill it is vital that you take them to your GP as soon as possible and tell your GP where you have been. Your GP may then need to send your child for additional tests to rule out malaria. Most strains are treatable and if treated promptly and properly a person can make a full recovery.
The symptoms of malaria may occur in as little as 10 days after infection, but sometimes may not occur for several weeks or months after exposure. Malaria resembles the flu, and may in fact mimic many illnesses. Malaria is more severe in children under 5. The symptoms to look out for include: fever, shivering, cold, irritability and drowsiness, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pain, hypothermia (instead of a fever) and rapid breathing.
Dengue fever is a common mosquito borne disease which can be very serious for infants. The female tiger mosquito spreads the dengue virus. Unlike most mosquitoes, dengue-causing mosquitoes bite during the day.
The symptoms of dengue fever include; high fever or temperature, a runny nose, a cough, a mild skin rash, pain behind the eyes and in the joints, backaches and headaches, followed by; loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and itchiness on the soles of the feet. If you suspect that your baby or toddler has dengue fever, seek medical help immediately. If you have travelled to an area with dengue and your child becomes I’ll once at home, be sure to tell your gp where you have been.
Most people with dengue feel very weak and this can last for some time after the illness. There is no cure for dengue, but the symptoms can be treated and your body can fight it off in time. Your doctor may prescribe paracetamol for the fever but remember not to give your child any anti-inflammatories as they could affect your child’s blood platelets. When your child is recovering, make sure they get plenty of rest and put a wet cloth on his or her forehead every so often to help bring the fever down
Dengue may last up to 10 days, but some people may continue feeling tired for up to a month.