A man is going to Central America for the month of September and is wary of anti-malarial drugs. Does anyone have experience of these drugs? Are there any alternatives?
Yes, and it seems that every reader has something to say on the subject! The gist is that there are two ways to avoid malaria. The first is to avoid getting bitten, and involves wearing clothing that completely covers your arms and legs, especially at dusk. Cover any exposed areas in citronella or neem lotion. Look at what the local people wear - it will be best suited to that climate! Spray your bedroom (purchase this locally as some varieties may be resistant) and use a mosquito net. The other way to avoid malaria is to ingest something with anti-malarial properties. You can use the homeopathic remedy Malaria 30c - from Ainsworth's (0207 935 5330) - weekly, starting one week before leaving, and take China Officinalis 6c daily (except for the Malaria 30c day), continuing both for four weeks after returning.
Also take garlic and thiamine, and remember that mosquitoes don't like yeast. Take a high dose of vitamin B1 (ask a pharmacist about this) and, if you can stomach it, eat a lot of marmite. You can also use the Chinese herb Qing Hao (alternatively spelled Quin Hao) as tea. This herb is the basis of Artemisin, which is free of side effects and is now used by the UN for malaria treatment. 'Natural Cleanse' and 'Natural Balance' have also been suggested - they are anti-parasite recipes now available in the UK. If you do go the allopathic route, do not buy your antimalarials in the UK. These are outdated and have horrendous side effects.
When you arrive in the capital city of where you are going, find a good private health clinic and ask a doctor about the best local antimalarials. These countries deal with malaria all the time and will be best placed to advise you as to the newest, safest medication (and herbal remedies as well, actually).
There are four types of malaria and most Western-trained doctors fall into the trap of prescribing tablets that are insufficiently broad-spectrum to have much preventive effect. Local knowledge will save you a lot of time (and spare you of the hallucinations that drugs like Larium can give you)! Actually, British Airways forbids its pilots to take Larium, as it is known to cause psychotic behaviour (not to mention severe depression). Readers wrote in with horror stories about Mefloqine and Cloroquin as well. A good book to read on the subject is "A Layman's Guide to Malaria" by Martine Maurel.