Getting to know Doxycycline

In our continued look at a range of different antimalarial tablets, it’s now time to learn more about Doxycycline and why this might be the ideal choice for you.

With international travel to malaria risk areas on the rise and a whole host of different malaria prevention medication available, it is understandable that sometimes it is difficult to decide which medication is right for you.

To help with this problem, 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.

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 area you intend to visit as different areas of the world display resistance to certain medications. Click Here to find out which you will need for the area you travelling to.

What are Doxycycline capsules?

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 most commonly used for malaria prevention.

How do they work?

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 are they?

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

Is there resistance?

There is no known resistance to doxycycline tablets in any region.

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 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 and can help be prevented by using high factor sunblock. If your skin does react to sunlight whilst using doxycycline you should seek medical help.

Ulceration of the oesophagus is also rare and can help be prevented by taking with a full glass of water and remaining upright after swallowing for at least 30 minutes.

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

Who can’t use this drug?

Doxycycline isn’t suitable for everyone. It should not be used in children under 12 as it can 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 pregnancy or breast feeding. 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 before using.

Does it 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 you take it?

The dose of doxycycline for malaria prevention is 1x 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.

Will I need a prescription?

Yes. Doxycycline is a prescription only antimalarial so you will require a prescription from a suitably qualified person. Here at Travel Pharm our team consists of an 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 for just £10 with no need to visit a doctor.

What happens when I finish the course?

When you have completed the course of doxycycline capsules your treatment is complete. However, 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.

Comments are closed here.