Malaria In Children – Causes, Symptoms & Treatments


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For a mother, nothing can be more heartbreaking than to watch her child suffer. A high fever is one of the scariest things you may encounter as a parent. But the fever is not the enemy!

A fever is just an indication that your child’s body is fighting off an infection. Do you want to bring down the fever for good? Then you need to treat the underlying medical condition causing the fever.

Malaria – for years this dreaded disease killed millions of people worldwide. Though the number of victims may have come down with improved medical care, malaria still is a scary disease, especially when it comes to children.

If you want to learn more about what is malaria for kids and how to treat it, this article is just what you need!

Causes Of Malaria In Children:

Common in India and Africa, malaria is a serious illness, especially for children under five years of age.

A simple mosquito bite can cause malaria! Yes, it is a mosquito-borne disease and spreads when an infected Anopheles mosquito, carrying Plasmodium parasites, bites you. (1) Unlike other mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya, mosquitoes that cause malaria are active during the night.

In some rare cases, one can also get malaria through the following ways:

  • From mother to unborn child
  • Blood transfusions
  • By sharing needles used to inject drugs

Your child can get malaria any time of the year. But during monsoon, the number of malaria cases goes up radically. The warm, humid weather and stagnant rainwater prove to be the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

In India, where malaria is endemic, states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka report the highest number of cases while the north-eastern states remain relatively unscathed, thanks to their cooler environs.

[ Read: Remedies To Cure Mosquito Bites In Children ]

Signs And Symptoms Of Malaria In Children:

Normally, we consider newborns to be fragile, in need of protection. But the good news is that your infant is less likely to get malaria in the first two months of her life. All the healthy diet and prenatal pills you took during your pregnancy give your baby a good level of immunity in the start of her life. But as her body loses this natural immunity, it becomes more prone to diseases like malaria.

If your child is below five years of age, she is at maximum risk of coming down with a bad case of the disease.

Some of the major symptoms that can indicate malaria in a child less than five years of age include:

  • High Fever
  • Chills and Shivering
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of sleep
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Rapid breathing

In some cases, a child can develop Hypothermia instead of a fever (2). Hypothermia means when your child has a body temperature that is lower than normal. It is a common symptom among children under five years of age.

For older children, the malaria symptoms in children are similar to those experienced by adults, including:

  • High fever and shivering that lasts for 48 hours followed by heavy sweating
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Loss of appetite

[ Read: Symptoms Of Loss Of Appetite In Children ]

Is Malaria A Cause For Concern?

Yes, malaria is a serious illness and can prove to be fatal, especially for young children. Some of the most severe side-effects of malaria can include:

1. Cerebral Malaria:

In some severe cases, a child with malaria may experience swelling in the brain, which can lead to brain damage, coma, and even death. (3)

2. Breathing Difficulties:

Sometimes, malaria can lead to fluid retention in the lungs and cause mild to severe difficulty while breathing. (4)

3. Organ Failure:

Severe Falciparum Malaria can cause organ failures in many cases. (5) Kidney, lung, brain or liver failure – any of these can prove to be life-threatening.

[ Read: Types Of Fungal Infections In Children ]

4. Severe Anemia:

Your child may develop a case of severe anemia due to malaria. (6)

5. Low Blood Sugar:

Low blood pressure is another serious complication that may arise due to severe malaria. (7) Low blood sugar levels can lead to coma and even death.

As you can see, malaria can have a far-reaching impact on your child’s health. That is why it is important to go to a doctor immediately if you suspect that your little one is suffering from this serious disease.

Diagnosing Malaria In Children:

A quick diagnosis is the first step towards early recovery from malaria. So, head to the doctor if you notice the symptoms of malaria.

Your health care provider will order a simple blood test to diagnose malaria. Thankfully, diagnosing malaria is not a time-consuming process.

Treating Malaria In Children:

If your child does have malaria, don’t panic. With timely medical intervention, most children go on to recover completely.

Your doctor may prescribe the following medication to help your child beat the disease:

  • Chloroquine (Aralen)
  • Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin)
  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • Mefloquine
  • Combination of Atovaquone and Proguanil (Malarone) (8)

[ Read: Symptoms Of Jaundice In Children ]

What Can You Do?

If your child has malaria, you need to be proactive to help her beat it. Here are some of the steps you can help your child take at home:

  • Rest: Let your child rest as much as she can. Malaria can lead to severe fatigue and weakness. So ensure that your little one is conserving her energy to beat the disease. That is easier said than done! Getting a child to stay in bed when all she wants to do is run around can be a difficult task. Use TV, games, books – anything to let her rest.
  • Diet: When your little one’s body is fighting malaria, the most important thing it needs is a good diet! So provide her with light and healthy food.
  • Keep The Fever In Check: Another important aspect of managing malaria at home is keeping the body temperature under control. Apart from giving fever-reducing medication, you can also try frequent sponging to bring the fever down.

With the right treatment, your child should start to feel better within a couple of days.

But in some severe cases, she may suffer from convulsions, dehydration, or loss of consciousness. In such a scenario, she may require hospitalization.

Preventing Malaria In Children:

Malaria is a serious disease. Though medical science now makes treating it possible, the better option is to prevent it in the first place. The first step to preventing malaria is to keep the pesky mosquitoes at bay!

Some of the measures you can take to prevent malaria are:

1. Keep Your Surrounding Mosquito-Free:

Do a recce. Is your house or surrounding area the ideal habitat for mosquitoes? Get rid of all the old flower pots, air coolers, and other articles that can collect water.

2. Dress Your Child Right:

Opt for light-colored, full-length clothes for dressing up your child to keep mosquito bites miles away.

3. Use Air Conditioners:

Mosquitoes thrive in a warm and humid environment. So, using an air conditioner is a great way to keep mosquitoes away.

4. Mosquito Nets:

If you cannot afford air conditioning, try using a mosquito net during your child’s bedtime.

5. Mosquito Meshes:

Another great idea to keep mosquitoes out of your home is to use mosquito meshes on your doors and windows.

With these simple steps, you can surely banish the fear of malaria from your lives.

Gone are the days when malaria meant a death sentence. Today, with the right treatment, malaria can be treated like any other disease. But the first step in the fight against malaria is prevention. So, ensure a mosquito-free life if you want to make malaria a thing of the past!

Do you know of any other way to prevent malaria? Share your tips with us!

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