Getting to know Doxycycline for Malaria Prevention

doxycycline capsules

In our continued look at a range of different antimalarial tablets, it’s now time to get indepth and personal with getting to know Doxycycline for malaria prevention.

How do you know Doxycycline is the right anti-malaria tablet for you? How do you know which countries have malaria? and if the malaria tablet you have chosen is even suitable for the area you plan to travel to?

To help with these problems, here at TravelPharm we have devised a series of blog posts which aim to help you make an informed decision regarding which antimalarial medication is right for you.  Let’s start by getting to know Doxycycline for malaria prevention.

(Updated September 2019)

Why do you need antimalarials?

In brief, Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite which is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito in certain parts of the world. It can be fatal- so it is important you get protected if you are travelling to a risk area.

It is also important to check which antimalarials are recommended for the countries you intend to visit as different areas of the world show resistance to certain medications. Click Here to find out which you will need for the area you travel to.

What are Doxycycline capsules?

Getting to know doxycycline is crucial.  It will ensure you get the most out of your treatment.

Doxycycline is a relatively cheap but effective drug which can be used for a variety of conditions ranging from acne to malaria prevention. It has both antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties. Malaria is caused by parasitic protozoans and the antiprotozoal properties are what help to prevent malaria. Doxycycline comes in a range of strengths and formulations. The 100mg capsule is the most common treatment for malaria prevention.

How does it prevent malaria?

The mode of action for doxycycline in malaria prevention is not fully understood. It is thought that the drug helps to prevent the production of vital proteins which are needed to make new malaria parasites in our bodies. It needs to be taken for at least 28 days after leaving the risk area to successfully suppress any parasites which can emerge from the liver after arriving home.

How effective is it?

When used as prescribed, doxycycline is thought to be in the region of 90% effective at preventing malaria.

Is there resistance?

Whilst some older anti malarial drugs are becoming less effective around the world there is no known resistance in the malaria parasite to doxycycline.  At Travlepharm we only prescribe and recommend evidence based approaches to preventing malaria and so will never recommend a product where resistance is widespread.

Are there any side effects?

As with all drugs, there are some side effects associated with doxycycline treatment. Most commonly these include:

  • Nausea Vomiting Abdominal pain Diarrhoea (seek medical attention if severe) Vaginal or oral thrush

These side effects can be minimised by taking the capsules with food and carrying stand by antifungal thrush treatment in the form of an oral gel (for oral thrush) and vaginal pessary (for vaginal thrush).

Other rarer but more serious side effects include:

  • Photosensitivity
  • Ulceration of the oesophagus

Photosensitivity is a reaction of the skin to sunlight. It is rare with estimates put at approximately 3% of individuals being affected. Damage to the skin can be prevented or reduced by using high factor sunblock avoiding the midday sun, and by wearing clothing to cover exposed skin. If your skin does react to sunlight whilst using doxycycline you should seek medical help from a doctor.

Ulceration of the oesophagus is also rare. You can reduce the risk by taking doxycycline capsules with a full glass of water and by remaining upright after swallowing them for at least 30 minutes.

There is a range of other less common side effects which can be found in the product information leaflet.

Who can’t use Doxycycline?

Doxycycline isn’t suitable for everyone. It should not be used in children under 12 as it can permanently discolour the teeth grey/green. It can also bind to growing bones and affect skeletal development. For this reason, it is not recommended for use in pregnant women or breastfeeding either. It is not suitable for anyone with any known allergies to tetracycline antibiotics or anybody with sucrose intolerance.

If you have reduced kidney or liver function you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before using.

Does this drug interact with other medication?

Absorption of doxycycline from the gut can be impaired when taken with antacids (tablets used to neutralise stomach acid e.g Rennie’s or Gaviscon). Use together should be avoided, but if unavoidable then the two tablets should be taken as far apart as possible.

There are a few other minor interactions so always check with your doctor or pharmacist before using.

How do I take it?

The dose of doxycycline for malaria prevention is a 100mg capsule once daily for 1-2 days before entering the malaria area, daily whilst there and for 28 days after your return. It is crucial to complete the course.

Do I need a prescription for doxycycline?

Yes. Doxycycline is a prescription only antimalarial in the UK so you will require a prescription. This means you cannot buy doxycycline over the counter at a pharmacy. Here at Travelpharm our team consists of a specialist independent prescriber experienced in the use of doxycycline for malaria prevention who can prescribe this medication for you. All you will need to do is complete a short questionnaire which allows our prescribers to check you are suitable. Once completed accurately, just sit back whilst we do the rest!

What happens when I finish the course?

When you have completed the course of doxycycline capsules your treatment is complete. There is a very small chance you can still contract malaria despite using the medication as prescribed. If you develop signs of fever, diarrhoea and sickness up to 1 year after you return home you need to see your GP and mention that you travelled to a malaria-risk area.

Is Doxycycline the antimalarial tablet for you?

Yes? Excellent, head on over to the doxycycline product page and start a free online consultation.  Make sure you add the right amount of capsules to your basket.

Still unsure, you should read about Malarone which is probably the most popular anti-malarial medicine prescribed.

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