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'I survived malaria'

The trip of a lifetime could have been fatal for charity worker Josie Middleton, 26, from south London

Breathing deeply, I tried to clear a headache that had been bothering me all day. It was agonising – my head was pounding and I was tired, achy  and had a temperature. I pushed my worries to the back of my mind, but a small part of me thought: is it malaria?

 

I was working with a non-government organisation in Ghana, helping to set up a guest house to raise funds for a local orphanage. My team was involved in everything from organising the renovations to buying furniture. We were having a great time, but we knew malaria was a risk in Ghana, so we wore long-sleeved tops and trousers, slept under mosquito nets and applied insect repellent.

I would urge all travellers to take medication according to the directions given

I’d also tried to protect myself before leaving the UK. There’s no vaccination against malaria, but I was prescribed anti-malaria tablets, which I started taking a couple of days before travelling. I was told it was important to take them at the same time each day and not to miss any doses, but when I arrived in Ghana, my mind was on other things so I wasn’t always strict about it.

 

I knew from advice that everyone’s symptoms are different, but when my headache and temperature wouldn’t budge I went to the local health clinic. After a blood test, I was sent back to my lodgings to rest, and diagnosed with malaria 24 hours later. I wasn’t too scared – fortunately, I had a relatively mild case, so I was prescribed a four-day supply of treatment and told to rest as much as possible.

 

After finishing the course, I was given the all-clear, but the pounding headache returned 10 days later. I went back to the clinic, where a blood test confirmed that I had malaria again.

Expert Advice

Meera

Meera Shah,

Boots pharmacist

‘Seek advice at least 8 weeks before you travel’

‘If you’re off to a destination that requires medication or vaccination, make sure you book an appointment with the Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice Service at least eight weeks before you leave, to talk through your options with a pharmacist.

 

A typical consultation will last about 40 minutes, and you’ll discuss your health, destination, activities  and any medication and vaccine requirements, along with their possible side- effects, so that you can make an informed choice.

 

As well as a wide range of travel vaccinations (available in selected stores only), your Boots pharmacist can offer anti-malaria tablets suitable for you and your trip, then supply them without a visit to your GP. You will need to take them in the run-up to your departure – the length of time varies, depending on the medicine selected, but your pharmacist will be able to advise you on this.’

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I started on the same medication as before, but this time it didn’t work. I knew I’d caught it early, but I couldn’t help feeling worried. Luckily, after a second course of treatment, I was on the mend.

 

When I phoned my mum and told her what had happened, the first thing she asked was whether I’d taken my anti-malaria tablets as prescribed – and I had to admit that I hadn’t.

 

Thankfully, seven years on, there’s been no lasting damage to my health, although it did take a long time for me to recover fully. I would urge all travellers to listen to advice and take any medication according to the directions given. Knowing you’ve done all you can to limit your chances of falling ill will help you have a happy, healthy trip.’

Malaria: the facts

What is it?
Malaria is a potentially fatal tropical disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite and spread by mosquitoes.

Symptoms

High temperature

Sweating

Headaches

Vomiting

Muscle pain

Diarrhoea

Minimise your risk
Follow the ‘ABCD’ approach:

Awareness Speak to your Boots pharmacist before travelling to find out whether you’re at risk of malaria on your trip.

Bite prevention Use a suitable insect repellent, cover arms and legs, and sleep under a mosquito net.

Check if you need a course of anti-malaria tablets. If so, take them as prescribed, including for the appropriate length of time after leaving the malarial area.

Diagnosis Seek advice if you develop flu-like symptoms during your trip and for up to a year after your return.

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For participating stores or to book an appointment, go to boots.com/travelhealth

Interview Fiona Ford  Photography Helen Marsden Styling Angela Barnard Hair and make-up Rachel Jones at Terri Manduca Photography of Meera Shah Matthew Walder
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