Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the plasmodium parasite; Plasmodium Falciparum. It is transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria causes significant morbidity and mortality in children under 5 years of age and those with sickle cell disease. It is more prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas.
Children under 5 years of age are one of most vulnerable groups affected by malaria. In Africa, about 285 000 children died before their fifth birthdays in 2016.
In high transmission areas, partial immunity to the disease is acquired during childhood. In such settings, the majority of malarial disease, and particularly severe disease with rapid progression to death, occurs in young children without acquired immunity. Severe anaemia, hypoglycemia and cerebral malaria are features of severe malaria more commonly seen in children than in adults.
Common Symptoms of Malaria
- Irritability or refusal to feed
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Generalized body pain
- Loss of appetite
HOW TO PREVENT MALARIA IN CHILDREN
Prevention aims at eliminating the insect vector or preventing mosquito bites while additional chemoprophylaxis treatment is required for vulnerable individuals. The 5 major ways to prevent malaria in your children include :
- Children should sleep under long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLNs) and mosquito repellents could be applied to prevent mosquito bites. Children should also be dressed in appropriate clothing especially in the evenings.
- Gutters in surrounding areas should be drained and cleaned. This prevents a breeding environment for the mosquitoes.
- Seasonal malaria chemoprevention is the intermittent administration of the full treatment course of an antimalarial medicine to children in areas of highly seasonal transmission during the malaria season. It is done for children aged 3 years to about 5 years.
- Intermittent preventive treatment in infants. This is a full therapeutic course of antimalarial medicine delivered to infants through routine immunization services, regardless of whether the child is infected with malaria. It is given 3 times during the first year of life at approximately 10 weeks, 14 weeks, and 9 months of age. It should not be administered in areas where WHO recommends seasonal malaria chemoprevention.
- Prompt diagnosis and effective treatment of malaria infections to prevent severe cases of malaria.
Diagnosis of Malaria
Any child with suspected malaria infection should be taken to see a doctor where a number of tests will be run. A few include:
• Full blood count
• Blood film for malaria parasites
Treatment of Malaria in Children
Malaria is treated with antimalarial therapy which will be prescribed by a doctor.
As with any patient, children with suspected malaria should have parasitological confirmation of diagnosis before treatment begins, provided that diagnosis does not significantly delay treatment.
Artemisinin derivatives are safe and well tolerated by young children, so the choice of ACT will be determined largely by the safety and tolerability of the partner drug. Many antimalarials lack paediatric formulations, necessitating the division of adult tablets, which can lead to inaccurate dosing.
WHO recommends new adjusted dosing schemes for dihydro-artemisinin + piperaquine in children weighing less than 25 kg and for parenteral artesunate in children weighing less than 20 kg. For infants weighing less than 5 kg with uncomplicated P. falciparum , WHO recommends treatment with an ACT at the same mg/kg body weight dose as for children weighing 5 kg.