Malaria In Toddlers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Is your toddler suffering from fever and chills? It might be more than a case of simple fever. She could be infected with malaria. This World Malaria Day, take an in-depth look at the disease.

By Dr Vishnuvardhan Reddy Meedimale

Malaria In Toddlers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Malaria is a common infection which is caused by parasites of the Plasmodium species, which are carried by mosquitoes that are infected from biting someone who already has the disease. When these mosquitoes bite others, this disease gets transmitted.

According to the latest available World Health Organisation (WHO) report, India has the 4th highest number of malaria cases and deaths in the world after Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burkina Faso (West Africa). In India, the eastern state of Odisha accounts for more than 40 per cent of the country's malaria cases. 

Symptoms of malaria in toddlers

Malaria is caused by plasmodium parasites. The infection is spread through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquitoes that carry malaria usually bite at night, unlike the mosquitoes that carry dengue or chikungunya that bite during the day. 

Generally, the symptoms in toddlers start showing around eight days to even three weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The infected toddler usually suffers from fever, shivers, cough and cold, irritability and drowsiness, poor appetite, diarrhea, often with green stools, sleeplessness, vomiting, stomach pain, etc. Some toddlers suffer from a low body temperature (hypothermia) instead of a fever, but could suffer from seizures and rapid breathing.  

What happens when a toddler is infected?

If your toddler is infected with malaria, she is likely to suffer from fever for which they require frequent sponging to bring the fever down. If she shows convulsions, dehydration or loss of consciousness, the child might have to be hospitalised. Apart from these, the little one could show various other symptoms as mentioned above. Each of these symptoms has to be addressed at the earliest. 

How can it be diagnosed?

Flu, dengue and chikungunya all of them carry the same symptoms of malaria. So, if your toddler is suffering from severe fever and chills, you need to contact your doctor immediately. In order to confirm malaria infection, a blood test is necessary. If your doctor thinks that your little one has malaria, he is likely to start treatment while waiting for the blood test results to come through. 

Taking your toddler to the doctor is the best way to deal with malaria. Depending on the condition and the severity, the doctor will prescribe treatment with antimalarial drugs. Also, based on the type and severity of malaria, the doctor may prescribe a single drug or a combination of medicines. 

Is malaria contagious?

Malaria spreads through blood. As the infection is found in red blood cells of an infected person, a person may get malaria if he or she receives infected blood during a blood transfusion. However, malaria is not contagious, which means that you can’t get it from sitting near an infected person. However, if an expecting mother is suffering from malaria during pregnancy, it can be passed on to her unborn baby either before or during the delivery. This is known as congenital malaria. 

There is no commercially available malarial vaccine at the present moment.

Medicines to prevent malaria

Atovaquone / Proguanil, Chloroquine, Doxycycline, Mefloquine, Primaquine, Quinine are some of the medicines that cure malaria when taken at the right time and as prescribed by the doctor.

Malaria in toddlers can be life-threatening. So, how does one deal with this menace? The article below discusses 9 tips to prevent malaria in toddlers. 

Dosage for toddlers:

Malaria in toddlers is treated with anti-malarial drugs, such as chloroquine or quinine, given by mouth, by injection, or intravenously. Only after understanding the level of infection, appropriate treatment and medication is advised by the doctor. In case the condition turns severe,  the toddler needs to be hospitalized and be under the constant supervision of the doctor. 

Duration of medicine:

For most of the cases, treatment duration is for 3 days. In one form of Malaria, medicine needs to be given for 14 days to prevent its relapse. In severe cases, IV medications are given along with supportive medicines that can be administered for a few days and may even continue for a few weeks.

Diet to be followed:

When your toddler is suffering from malaria, she will tend to have a low appetite. Since her nutrition intake might be less during this phase, parents need to be extra careful with the diet. Health fluids and liquid fluids work best in such cases.


There are several antimalarial medications that help cure malaria in toddlers. However, a healthy diet can help control the condition significantly. 

Are there ways to treat malaria at home?

As we all know, fruits and vegetables play a very important role in one’s life. Having fruits and vegetables  everyday enhances our immune system. Some of the home remedies which can control the infection and improve the health of the toddler include consuming orange juice on a regular basis along with sufficient amount of water. Giving fresh fruits to the little one can help fight the infection. 

Malaria In Toddlers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Mosquitoes are behind many dangerous diseases, malaria being one of them. We all want to protect our little ones and our families from this threat. Instead of chemical-based repellents, we bring you effective and inexpensive home remedies that can help keep these pests away.

The author is a Consultant Neonatal and Paediatric Intensivist.

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