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Jade Archer asked...

I am due to travel and I have forgotten to take my malaria tablets.

I am due to fly to the Phillipines on Saturday and I completely forgot to take the malaria tablets, I am going for 3 weeks, if I start them now will I still be ok or not?

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The answer

A scary number of people assume that, just because we live in a global village where you can jet off at a couple of days’ notice, other countries have risks very different from ours. I always recommend that patients book any foreign holidays outside Western Europe, USA and Australasia with at least eight weeks’ notice, so they can make an appointment for all their travel immunisations, which may take this long to take effect. Most GP surgeries provide a full travel immunisation service (with the exception of Yellow Fever vaccination, which may need to be done at a private clinic). If your practice doesn’t have such a service, they should be able to direct you to one. The standard malaria prevention treatment for the Philippines is Malarone, which needs to be started 1-2 days before you arrive and continued every day until 1 week after you leave the malarious area. Most areas of the Philippines below 600m above sea level carry a risk of malaria. If for any reason you can’t take Malarone, the alternatives may need to be started up to 2 ½ weeks before you leave. Your GP, practice nurse or travel clinic can advise. Don’t forget that even if you are taking malaria tablets, you still need to take precautions to avoid getting bitten. Cover up arms and legs, especially after sunset; use insect repellents on exposed skin; use a ‘knock-down’ spray in your room before going to bed and, when necessary, sleep under a mosquito net. Finally, don’t forget that taking precautions and tablets greatly reduces the risk of malaria but doesn’t abolish it altogether. If you get a feverish illness up to a year after visiting a malarious area, seek medical help and do tell your doctor where you’ve been.

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