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Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

Seoul, South Korea
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Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

Yes, another malaria question. I'm sorry.


I recently went to see a doctor because I'm going to travel to countries that have malaria. I'm beyond scared of this disease and wanted to discuss different options of prevention. I'm going to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and Malaysia.

I got Lariam. I originally wanted Malarone because I heard it has the least amount of side effects. But the doctor told me that I can't take Melarome in Vietnam or Laos because they are resistant to this medicine? Is it true? Should I go to a different doctor to get another opinion?

I read a lot of stories about people who took Lariam and everything sounds so horrible. I'm also traveling alone so now I'm paranoid about going at all. What if I get seizures or serious hallucinations and I'm all alone? Also not fond of those super vivid nightmares. Also, my doctor ONLY mentioned nausea and stomach ache for the side effects. And also he said that I should start taking it one week before I go to a country infected with malaria and the on the internet I read that it should be two to three weeks. Wth...? I don't know who to trust.

Of course, I understand that the side effects are nothing compared to actually getting malaria?

I don't know. I want to travel really badly and I'm so excited but sometimes I feel like I shouldn't go at all because I'm so scared of all these diseases like malaria and dengue fewer and now I'm even scared of these pills.

Would you guys have any advice for me? It's my first time dealing with any of this. I'm a 23-year old female from a European country.

My main questions are if Vietnam and Laos are resistant to malarone? And should I go to another doctor? And if I should go at all if I'm this scared? I could just stick with Hong Kong, Singapore and maybe Japan.

Thank you for any answers! :)

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1. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

Hmmm I can understand your frustration. There is so much different information out there. I have never even heard of Lariam or Malarone - in Australia the Doctors prescribe Doxycycline. I think you need to see more than one Doctor and do us much internet research that you can. Personally I start off taking the medication and then halfway throught the trip I forget to keep taking it! From what I can gather Malaria is not a big risk - dengue fever is actually a bigger risk. And I believe you can't take anything to prevent dengue. We always try to keep covered up with insect repellant - but we wear shorts and singlets - done something like 8 trips with no trouble but I guess that doesn't really mean anything for other people's chances. I just consider that most people go to these countries and come home fine so we go with the risk. But by all means keep researching on malaria medication, including seeing more Doctors.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

First of all, I think you should take several deep breaths and calm down.

Secondly, Malaria is the least of your worries because it is, these days, easily treated IF you contract it and there are plenty of simple and practical common sense steps that you can take to minimise the risk of doing so.

Thirdly, yes, there are many drug resistant and multiple drug resistant strains of Malaria and other medical problems in this part of the world but none of this means that you should not come to these areas. In fact, over two million, 2,000,000 people a year now come to the Siem Reap - Angkor region. They would hardly do so if the risks were as you fear them to be - would they now?

Fourthly, the one to really take serious protections about is Dengue Fever and for which there is NO prophylactic unlike the many available for Malaria but which need to be prescribed to suit your past medical history and tolerance to these very different anti-malarial preparations.

So, just calm down. Take sensible and easy common sense precautions and come and enjoy the Siem Reap - Angkor Region and all that it has to offer and for you to enjoy.

And finally, a simple search in the Search function directly above your posting using such words as ...Malaria Precautions...etc will pull up more information that you can read in an evening.

OK. So I used Angkor in Cambodia as my example but Vietnam is NO Different.

Best regards. Ian

Edited: 03 June 2014, 16:32
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3. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

You don't say WHERE in those countries you plan to travel. Unless you're determined to go to high risk areas in Vietnam, it's quite possible to visit the country and stay in low risk or malaria free areas.

You still need to worry about dengue fever and all the other stuff.

Best protection - know the risks / take precautions / don't get bitten. I'd consult a travel clinic (or www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk if you're in the UK)....

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4. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

Lariam is completely useless in SE Asia, and because of the horrific mental side effects I wouldn't take it for any country.

Doxycycline and Malarone are the only prophylactics guaranteed to be effective in the SE Asian countries you'll be visiting, despite what your obviously ill-informed doctor has said. I opted for Malarone when I travelled to a malaria hot spot some years ago and found it to be completely free of side effects, but my god it was expensive.

In any event, depending on which parts of Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos you'll be visiting (Hong Kong and Singapore are malaria-free) you are unlikely to need antimalarials anyway. As others have said above, dengue fever presents a far greater risk so cover up and apply a good insect repellent day and night (the mosquitos that transmit dengue fever fly by day).

Melbourne, Australia
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5. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

I would take Doxycycline. It's an antibiotic and may help you in other ways if for example you get bitten by ticks etc. Another advantage is that i'ts pretty cheap. Downside is that it makes you more sensitive to the sun.

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6. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

I hope this doesn't sound patronising, it sincerely isn't meant to....but are you sure you are up for travelling by yourself when the fear of illness is so strong? It sounds as if you are quite nervous which is understandable but what if you get sick in a different way? Will you be able to cope with that? Travel is awesome but can be lonely at times and isolating. Unless you have the coping mechanism to push through those times it might not be for you. These countries are not like home, and will throw up many challenges. My advice would be to really think about whether you have thought it through, maybe just maybe the fear of infection is a manifestation of other worries and a reason to get out of going? Sorry if this sounds negative but you did ask, and it's only my opinion not necessarily the right one!

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for Cambodia
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7. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

My youngest daughter and I both had awful side effects from Lariam prescribed by my doctor in 2004 for a trip to vietnam... I/we/the whole family stopped taking them when we realised what was happening and I have never taken anti malarials since. I cover up where possible and use a good quality DEET based repellent which I reapply regularly.

Lariam was developed by the US army and fed to their troops - they have since stopped using this drug - that should be good enough for anyone. Sorry but I would now be questioning your doctors advice on any medication in the future if they continue to prescribe this poison knowing the side effects.

As Angkorlad has already mentioned it is not malaria you should be concerned about but dengue

Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

...and dengue has no preventative medication other than cover up and use a deet based spray.

Ive given up using any anti-malaria medication for this very reason on my many asian trips.

I think you are stressing too much.


Nha Trang, Vietnam
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9. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

Even back in 1993 my wife and I opted for NOT using Lariam because of the dreaded side effects that we feared more than Malaria itself. Since 1998 I've not used any drugs related to Malaria and I've been in supposedly Malaria risk areas half a dozen times (you really need to seek out those areas in Vietnam, because they're not along the tourist trails). Long sleeved shirts, socks, long pants and repellant seem to do the job. Not that I am in a position (or willing) to issue any guarantees. If fear of mosquitoes is going to kill your joy of travelling, you might be best off finding other destinations.

Calgary, Canada
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10. Re: Too scared of malaria to travel? Also malarone vs. Lariam

Why stress so badly about this? There are countless cool travel destinations that are completely malaria free...