According to the world health organization (WHO), the primary cause of malaria is mosquito bites. When an infected female Anopheles mosquito bites, it causes the transmission of infectious parasites from the mosquito to the host body. The malarial parasites enter the bloodstream and once they become mature, they start causing health damage.
After the mosquito bite, the symptoms may commonly appear within 10 to 15 days. The signs and symptoms can be mild or severe depending on the type of parasites that have led to the illness.
Malarial parasites belong to 5 different plasmodium species. They are – P. vivax, P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. ovale, and P. knowlesi. Out of these species, P. falciparum and P. vivax are life-threatening. P. falciparum infection can lead to death within 24 hours due to its rapid progression.
The other ways by which malaria can be spread are through blood transfusion, organ donation, and the use of contaminated needles. The infectious pathogens lay in the dormant state within the body for several months up to several years.
How does malaria affect your health?
After getting bitten by the female Anopheles mosquito, the tiny parasites enter the bloodstream and get lodged in the liver, where they can stay in the dormant state or become mature. After maturing, they again enter the bloodstream and begin damaging the red blood cells.
The parasites invade the red blood cells and start multiplying inside and start infecting them. Moreover, This contributes to the damage of red blood cells in the bloodstream. The red blood cell count decreases due to the infection, which potentiates the risk of anemia.
As a result, the hemoglobin levels also drop, which is an essential part of the red blood cell and is responsible for carrying oxygen to every cell and tissue of the body.
This is how the levels of oxygen drop in the body and the person develops breathing difficulties. Lack of oxygen can lead to hypoxia, which in addition to breathing problems gives rise to other symptoms like tiredness, fatigue, dizziness, headache, and irregular heartbeat.
The symptoms may not appear soon after the parasites enter the body. It can take up to a few days for the parasites to start contributing to some damage in the body. The symptoms are mild during the initial stage, and they can progress to severe illness further.
The parasites affect the red blood cells and reduce the levels of oxygen in the body.
The infected person develops several symptoms that are as follows:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Muscle and joint pain
- Sweating after fever
- Rapid breathing and heart racing
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Impaired consciousness
Some people might experience malaria “attacks”, which give rise to cycles of shaking chills, and high fever followed by sweating, and then the body gets back to the normal temperature. If you notice the symptoms, then see your doctor immediately. This will prevent the illness from getting any worse.
Timely treatment will reduce the risk of malaria complications, which include – hypoglycemia (blood sugar level drop), anemia, cerebral malaria, and severe breathing problems.
How is malaria diagnosed?
The diagnostic test for malaria involves a physical examination and blood tests. During the physical examination, the healthcare provider will ask you several questions like duration and intensity of symptoms, general health, medical history, etc. Moreover, They will suggest blood tests, which will determine the severity of the illness.
Blood tests will also reveal the type of parasites that have contributed to malaria. This is necessary, such that the treatment can be started as soon as possible, which will eliminate the risk of life-threatening consequences.
How is malaria treated?
After obtaining the blood test results, the type of parasite that led to the infection will be identified. To kill off the parasites and inhibit their growth and multiplication in the body, the healthcare provider will prescribe some antimalarial medications.
Sometimes, the parasites do not get affected because of the effects of certain medications. In such cases, they may prescribe additional medications, which in combination with the previous medications can effectively fight off the infection and restore your health.
Effective ways to prevent malaria
- Before stepping out, do not forget to apply or spray a mosquito repellent that consists of DEET (diethyltoluamide). It should be used on skin that is not covered by clothes. It keeps the mosquitoes away.
- Mosquitoes are most active during the nighttime, so, while sleeping, make use of a mosquito net. This way you will not get any mosquito bites during your sleep.
- Try to avoid mosquito-prone areas.
- Wear fully covered clothes. Long sleeves and full-length pants will prevent any mosquito bites and keep you safe.
- Use permethrin spray on your clothes. This will repel the mosquitoes.
- If you are shifting to a place that is mosquito prone, then you need to follow all the above-given steps necessarily. In case you develop some symptoms, then see your doctor immediately. Early treatment will prevent your condition from worsening and spreading the infection to others.