You could be risking your child’s life if you don’t make them sleep under a treated mosquito net. Malaria is real and experts say it can cause anaemia, or severe damage to the brain when treatment is delayed and even kill. To thwart the dangers malaria poses to children in particular, it is advisable for parents to do thorough regular medical check-ups for their children whether sick or not.
According to Dr Stephenson Musiime, a pediatrician at Glamerc Polyclinic, Remera, Gasabo District, mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals is caused by parasitic protozoa.
Dr Raymond Awazi, a pediatrician at Hôpital la Croix du Sud in Remera, says people with infections caused either by bacteria or viruses, parasites or fungi, especially with those whose immune system is weak like HIV patients, are more prone to malaria.
Studies indicate that regions where the climate is ideal for the anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria parasites are more prone to the disease. Anopheles mosquitoes thrive in regions with warm temperatures, humid conditions, and high rainfall. Thus, tropical and sub-tropical areas are ideal.
Signs and symptoms
Musiime says when a child has malaria, they are likely to manifest the following signs; a pale skin, dark urine, swollen spine, fast heartbeat, abnormal brain function, restlessness characterised by crying and dehydration due to vomiting.
“If your baby’s temperature is too high, they will be too uncomfortable to eat, drink, or sleep, making it harder for them to get better but if your baby’s body temperature is higher than normal because of extra clothes or a scorching day, help them cool down by taking off a few of their clothes and let them rest or play quietly in a cool spot,” Awazi explains.
However, parents should be very careful when administering medicine to their babies because their weight determines the dose, he says.
Awazi adds that fever characterized by a high temperature is among the commonest symptoms of malaria.
“The child may shiver, have diarrhoea and sometimes go into coma depending on how severe the malaria is,” Musiime says.
He further says children with malaria can experience difficulty in breathing, especially if it is cerebral malaria.
Musiime says the red blood cells might be blocked and the kidney may get infected which might hinder your child from urinating.
He adds that the child can also have convulsions due to high fever, which can be a symptom of cerebral malaria.
Treatment and prevention
“Remove the child’s clothes if the temperature is high, sponging the baby using a wet cloth all over the child’s body to cool the temperature, giving the child a cold drink either water or juice, and opening the windows for good aeration, are some of the recommended practices to apply when your child has malaria,” Awazi stresses.
He adds that doctors can also prescribe for you drugs like paracetamol and diclofenac dose.
According to BabyCenter, an online US-based media company that provides information on conception, pregnancy, birth, and early childhood development, since fever is part of the body’s protection against bacteria and viruses, some researchers suggest that a high temperature may help the body fight infections more effectively.
Experts warn against giving the baby aspirin because it can make a child more susceptible to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disorder.
Musiime says it is important to seek medical care as early as possible to prevent death. A coartem dose can also be given to a malaria patient, he adds.
According to World Health Organisation, it is important for children, especially those below five years, to sleep under long-lasting insecticidal nets.
WHO says in areas with highly seasonal transmission of the Sahel sub-region of Africa, seasonal malaria chemoprevention for children aged between 3 and 59 months is recommended, while in areas of moderate-to-high transmission in sub-Saharan Africa, intermittent preventive therapy for infants is ideal.
Musiime advises people to remove the stagnant water near homes or cover it with oil in order to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
However, he recommends spraying the whole house with a mosquito repellant to kill or chase away the mosquitoes, as well as clearing the bush around the home.
Musiime also advises that windows and doors should be closed early (before 6pm) to minimise the mosquitoes that enter the house.