When your doctor says you should eat before taking any anti-malarial, he/she is not trying to be difficult. The physician is simply trying to protect you from the consequences of such action.
Consultant family physician, Dr. Segun Agbaje, likens taking anti-malarial drugs without eating to driving a car without fuel.
Agbaje says, “Either of two things can happen: the drugs may shock your system to cause adverse reactions that will worsen your condition. If you take some drugs, especially anti- malarials on an empty stomach, it could inflame the stomach walls, and wash away some of the stomach lining to cause ulcers or lesion. That means you have to treat malaria and also tend the ulcer.”
The medic says another reason why patients must adhere to this instruction is that some anti- malarials contain allopurinol, bromocriptine and madopar, all of which can cause nausea and vomiting – reactions that may make the patient to lose body fluids and electrolytes.
He notes that some anti malarials also need food for them to function effectively. Agbaje explains that the food is the medium in which the drug is digested and absorbed before the affected organs in the body can take it up.
He explains, “Some anti-malarials can irritate the stomach lining if you take them when you are empty. So, they really need the food you eat in there to act as a cushion. They need to mix up with the food so they can move very slowly into your system, for you to get their full effect.
“If your bottle says, ‘Do not take on an empty stomach,’ please comply. However, if the label says take on empty stomach, by all means abstain from food, as it simply means that the drug doesn’t want any competition from food.”
It is not just about taking medication, malaria can actually be prevented.
A physician, Dr. Moruf Abdulsalam, says a major reason why Nigeria records one of the highest malaria infections in the world is her dirty environment and poor waste disposal systems, which help mosquitoes to thrive.
Abdulsalam notes that the unhygienic environment and poor sanitary conditions in many homes pose great challenges to the eradication of the disease.
“The species of mosquitoes that cause malaria, such as falciparum and vivax, tend to thrive in water-logged areas or environments with inadequate hygiene facilities like many homes in Nigeria.
“Also, mosquitoes live in dirty environments, and our waste disposal system in Nigeria is very poor. People dump refuse in drainages and on the streets, inviting mosquitoes to their homes and surroundings. So, we should not expect a miracle if we are hoping to reduce malaria infections,” he notes.
A pharmacist, Mr. Olumide Akintayo, notes that insect control measures such as indoor residual spraying with insecticides is another powerful way to rapidly reduce malaria transmission in communities.
Akintayo states, “Indoor residual spraying is effective for three to six months, depending on the insecticide used and the type of surface on which it is sprayed. But you can only get its full potential if 80 per cent of the houses in a neighbourhood are doing it.
“That is why every Nigerian must key into the vision of “No Mosquito, No Malaria” campaign, as malaria prevention through the environment is the most effective strategy in the fight against this disease, which is believed to account for over 65 per cent of clinical visits in the country.”
He also recommends that people living in mosquito-prone areas, such as those living in coastal areas, water sides and densely populated areas should adopt the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets in their homes.
Finally, if you suspect that you or anyone around you has the symptoms of malaria, do not resort to self-medication; please visit a doctor or a hospital closest to you for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Malaria, doctors say, is one of the most misdiagnosed disease conditions in the country due to self- medication and unorthodox treatment.
They warn that self-medication – a deadly habit that could increase malaria mortality and morbidity rates, especially in Nigeria – is responsible for the increasing cases of drug-resistant malaria in the country.
“We are seeing more cases of drug-resistant malaria because Nigerians have abused anti- malarial drugs. We must note that not all fever is malaria. When you use anti-malaria drugs because you think you have malaria, you are abusing it and increasing the chances of those drugs not working for you.
“The danger of this act of self diagnosis and self-medication is that when you actually have it, and the doctor prescribes anti-malarials for you, the drugs will not work. That is why many Nigerians have to take at least three anti-malaria drugs when they are sick because they have abused either one or two anti-malarials before.
“It is so bad that; when people see that their urine is yellow, they say they have malaria; when they have headache, it is malaria; when they have fever, they have malaria.”
Mosquitoes are parasites; the malaria infection that comes with it can be deadly! Banish them from your home.