Malaria In Toddlers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Is your toddler suffering from fever and chills? It might be much more than a case of simple fever. Your toddler could be having malaria.

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 infected from biting someone who already has the disease. Malaria is then transmitted to other people when infected mosquitoes bite them. 

Studies have mentioned that malaria is widespread in India and most common in Maharashtra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. About 2.5 million malaria cases are reported in South Asia each year. Three quarters of these cases come from India.

Symptoms of malaria in toddlers

Malaria is caused by plasmodium parasites. The infection is spread through the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. There are four different stages of malaria, out of which two of them are common in India. The mosquitoes that carry malaria usually bite at night, unlike the mosquitoes that carry dengue or chikungunya that bite during the day. 

Symptoms in toddlers usually start showing around eight days to three weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito, but they can appear earlier or late. The kids usually suffer from fever, shivering, cough and cold, irritability and drowsiness, poor appetite, diarrhea, often with green stools, sleeplessness, vomiting, stomach pain etc. Some young children have a low body temperature (hypothermia) instead of a fever, but could suffer from seizures, rapid breathing.  

What happens when a toddler is infected?

If your child is infected with malaria, he/she is likely to suffer from fever for which mothers need to provide frequent sponging to bring the fever down. If he/she shows convulsions, dehydration or loss of consciousness, the kid might have to be hospitalised. Apart from these, the little one could show various other symptoms mentioned above and 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 child is suffering from severe fever and chills, you need to contact your doctor immediately. In order to confirm for malaria infection, a blood test is necessary. If your doctor thinks that your child has malaria, he is likely to start treatment while waiting for the blood test results to come through. 

Getting to the doctor quickly is the best way to keep your child safe. In addition, the doctor will give your child treatment with antimalarial drugs. Depending on the type of malaria that your child has, and its severity, your doctor may prescribe a single drug or a combination of medicines. 

Is malaria contagious?

Malaria is spread through blood. As the infection is found in red blood cells of an infected person, a person may also get malaria if he or she gets infected blood during a blood transfusion. Malaria is not contagious, which means that you can’t get it from sitting near an infectious person. However, if a mum-to-be has malaria during pregnancy, it can be passed to her unborn baby either before or during delivery. This is called congenital malaria. 

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

Medicines to prevent malaria

Atovaquone/Proguanil, Chloroquine, Doxycycline, Mefloquine, Primaquine are some of the medicines that will cure malaria when taken at the right time.

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 in children, appropriate treatment and medication can be advised. Sometimes the treatment can be managed through outpatient but if the condition turns severe, then the toddler has to be hospitalized with IV medication immediately. 

Duration of medicine:

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

Diet to be followed:

When your child is suffering from malaria, he/she will tend to have low apatite due to the various symptoms the infections brings. Due to which your kid would refrain from eating the way he used to do. In such situations, parents should take effective care of the baby and boost them with health fluids and some liquid foods. 

This article discusses 9 tips to prevent malaria in toddlers. Want to read about them? Please go through the article to know more.

Treatment options

There are many antimalarial medications that help cure malaria in toddlers; however controlled and a healthy diet can help in controlling 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. Adding a fruit in your meal everyday will enhance your body with great immunity system. Some of the home remedies which can control the infection and improve the health of the kid are by consuming orange juice and water regularly. This can reduce the severity of fever. Giving fresh fruits to the baby can help it to fight the infected cells. Vegetables are another source to boost immunity. However, the best way to overcome malaria is through boosting the kid’s immunity system.    

Increased immunity cannot help prevent malaria as it depends on the intensity at which the infection has spread.

The author is a Consultant Neonatal and Paediatric Intensivist at Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad.

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