Should I Take Malaria Pills?

I need your help with a quick question.

I’m fortunate enough to be going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to help out with a humanitarian mission.  I’ll be heading to Djibouti (a small country in Africa) with Norwegian Air to drop-off 140 tons of supplies for refugees in need of supplies.  It’s in partnership with UNICEF, an organization which Norwegian has had close ties to.

I’ll be in Djibouti for a grand total of 30 hours.  Some of that time will be outside.  Djibouti is technically in a zone where folks are at-risk for Malaria.  To protect against Malaria, I’d need to start taking pills essentially now and continue for a number of weeks, including after I return.  I’ve taken one of the antibiotics most commonly prescribed for Malaria in the past.  It wreaked quite a bit of havoc on my digestive system, but I obviously survived.

A couple of other mitigating factors to consider:

  • A good mosquito repellent is part of an effective deterrent plan for Malaria.  Is just a repellent enough?
  • One of the common medicines folks take before going to a region where Malaria is present is also the same medicine used to treat Malaria.  Should I just chance it knowing I may need to take the medicine later (and would probably hate having Malaria)?
What’s Your Opinion?

I haven’t been to Africa before.  This is my first time making a decision like this.  If I was going for a longer period of time, I think it’s an easy decision to take the pills.  For one day?

I’d love it if you’d vote in my Twitter poll and/or leave comments below.

What do you think?

The post Should I Take Malaria Pills? was published first on Pizza in Motion



  1. As someone who has been to Djibouti twice for short stays of a day or two, I haven’t taken the prophylaxis. On trips to a malarial zone for a week or three, I have. Mosquitos usually bite at night so good mosquito netting is more important than repellant.

  2. If malaria is endemic in the place you are going, I wouldn’t fool around. I’d take the prophylaxis. Malaria isn’t something to fool around with. Even with repellent and mosquito netting, you are still likely to get a mosquito bite.

  3. No real need to especially for such a short period. I survived two years in Liberia (incl. the Ebola epidemic) without any prophylaxis. You can keep some malerone on you as a treatment, but by the time 30’hours have come and give you won’t even be through the incubation period of malaria and will be back in (presumably) western countries eh adequate standards of healthcare.

    In short, I wouldn’t worry about it and wouldn’t take any medicene for it.


  4. For 30 hours and stay at sheraton, I would prefer an anti mosquito body spray or body lotion. Just use it prior to go outside.

  5. What ever you decide please make sure to pay attention to any symptoms, not matter how small. A family friend, just last month, died of malaria. Strong healthy, took all the precautions. But when he got back he got sick and tried to tough it out. By the time he did go to the doctor the course of meds were too strong for his system. First sign of anything like a fever or low energy, GO TO THE DOCTOR!

  6. I went to India when I was 8 weeks pregnant, so I couldn’t take the malaria pills – I was just very very cautious and lathered on the bug spray and it was fine. I think for 30 hours, with precautions, you will probably be fine.

  7. Tough one for 2 days but I’d still take the meds. Lived in Cameroon for 12 yr, had malaria prob 9x. Why risk it? I’d hesitate taking Larium/mefloquine (bad dreams) even though it can be effective and it’s only 1 pill/week. Lots of friends take doxy. I always carried a treatment with me onboard the following 2 yrs whenever I traveled. About $8 at the local African pharmacy. I’m going to Nigeria in October for a week but will take meds. Prob doxy even though I hate it. A few friends of mine suffered great loss because of malaria.

  8. I would not for a 30 hour visit, no way. The side effects of taking antimalarial medications for an extended period (it makes me very flushed and prone to sunburn easily, stomach problems- and I had a family member who got much worse side effects from taking in conjunction with other medication- thus I never take it any more) outweigh the small risk of infection by a non-fatal disease. We love to overmedicate in this country.

  9. As someone who worked with various local UN offices, I would recommend checking with the local hosts and get their take on the in-the-field recommendations, as they have standard guidelines for incoming missions, in addition to recommendations from the CDC. The specific location, rather than country as a whole, makes a difference on whether specific shots or pills were required.

  10. In the camping section there are these bands with Geraniol oil that I swear by. After 10 days in the Costa Rican jungle I barely had any bites and everyone else was covered up. Both ankles and both wrist 🙂 of course with spray in that environment .

  11. The malaria medication when we were in Africa made me feel horrible. You might want to look into some Permethrin to spray down some of your clothes. Do not spray it on your skin if you’re not sure what it is look it up online.

  12. I see that various anti-malaria drugs have been mentioned in this thread. You may be aware that there are different strains of malaria around the world, and depending on the strain in Djibouti, there will be a particular drug you need to take for prophylaxis. I would just like to recommend that you consult a travel medicine clinic/doctor to be sure you’re prescribed the correct drug for the region, (check Centres for Disease Control info). As for whether to take it, personally, I always take anti-malaria drugs, even for a short stay in a malaria zone and have never contracted the disease, but then I’m cautious. My husband is more cavalier and often skipped the pills when younger. He has had a nasty bout of malaria as a result, but it was not caught on a short visit.

  13. As a physician, I agree with Suzanne. See a travel medicine clinic before you go for proper recommendations. No point in taking medication only to come down with malaria anyways because the strain in Djibouti is resistant to it. I’ve also been to countries where malaria is endemic but you don’t need medication so long as you’re staying only in major cities and sleeping at hotels with air conditioning.

    FWIW, here’s the CDC’s travel info page for Djibouti:

  14. I think others have mentioned Malarone – I was in West Africa (Ghana) for about 12 weeks over a 10 month period and I always took Malarone – take it 2 days before, during, then 5 days after. I’ve heard of horror stories of folks getting Malaria and being out of commission for 3-4 weeks…. I think you have to ask yourself, is a $60 prescription and possibly some crazy dreams (the side effect of Malarone) worse or better than the risk that you might be out of commission for 3-4 weeks. For me, it was always a really simple answer.

  15. Hi, Ed, I’ve been to Djibouti for five days and did not use malaria prophylaxis, although I have taken it several other times. I would not take it for such a short trip. Have a good trip! Alison

  16. Go to a travel doctor.
    Depending on the region they have different options and there are different treatments you can take but I would not take anecdotal advice(however well-intentioned).
    I have taken courses of malaria pills because I have friends who did not and got malaria and it is nasty. As short time may not be a problem under the conditions you’re describing(I have had a doctor tell me I didn’t need them for an area that was a malaria zone given duration and exposure potential) but they will know best.

  17. Ed, please take, it is not worth the risk. A few years ago a childhood friend one mine, in great physical condition, decided to be a “man” and not take the pills for a short visit to Angola. One bite and a few days later he is in intensive care and only great medical care saved his life. This is rare, but why take the risk.

  18. The Sheraton is a regular Sheraton they don’t have nets on the beds. Was there for a few days didn’t see any skeets, but I was taking Malarone because traveling throughout Africa.

  19. Go to a travel doctor for advise and prescription. Malarine is commonly prescribed now. Took it for two weeks during a Botswana Safari 2 years ago and had no problem. Neither did anyone else traveling in our group. You only need to take it a few days prior and after being in a possibly infected area. Malaria is not fun. Take the pills and play safe.

  20. My adult daughter worked for several months in Togo. One of her colleagues chose not to take anti-malarial drugs, and unfortunately caught the disease…he will have it for the rest of his life.

    Some anti-malaria prophylactic drugs work in Africa, but not in Asia, and vice-versa. Research would be in order on this.

  21. Hi,

    We do have quite some expertise in our country regarding recommended vaccination and drugs when traveling to Africa. Please find below a summary from our Public Service for Foreign Affairs:

    – Malaria: happens a lot in Djibouti. It is highly recommended to sleep under a mosquito net, use a DEET based antidepressant and, in case of a short stay, take a prophylactic drug.

    – Anyone who travels to Africa, regardless of duration and circumstances, must be protected against hepatitis A.

    For more info: see “Institute of Tropical Medecine”


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