Malaria is a disease you want to avoid. When contracted, it can lie dormant for months until it causes fever, chills, and dehydration, and occasionally fatal damage to the liver and other organs. But antimalaria pills have their own, equally serious risks. The FDA recently added a so-called black box warning to one of the most common – and effective – malaria drugs, mefloquine hydrochloride (often known by its brand name, Lariam), for causing serious, and sometimes permanent, psychiatric and neurological symptoms, including anxiety, paranoia, depression, and hallucinations. Physical symptoms, which can also be permanent, include dizziness, loss of balance, and ringing in the ears. When traveling to a country that is a known malaria hotbed, consult a physician who is familiar with a number of different medications and can take into account your itinerary and medical history. Also, no malaria pill is entirely effective, since it doesn’t protect against every possible strain – which makes it important to use mosquito nets, spray, and insect-repellent clothing.
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