Malarone Side Effects - Nightmares & Taking Antimalarial Medication While Traveling in Southeast Asia

Last updated: March 21st, 2018. 
Note: I am not a medical professional. Consult a professional before taking prescribed medication. 

Ah, to medicate or not to medicate?  That is the question.

There is certainly a war going on between travelers and mosquitos. Long pants, deet spray, and mosquito nets are all part of traveler's ammunition. 

Not included in this group: Malaria prevention pills.

Over the past 6 weeks of travel, I have only met 4 other people taking Malaria prevention pills . The topic of mosquitoes and mosquito prevention is omnipresent... however, very few people get vaccinated, or take preventative pills.   

This is interesting because any travel clinic is happy to prescribe them.  Most people say their insurance covered it.  

It is a traveler's choice to medicate or not... and most people don't.

My essential mosquito prevention items include: Mosquito Repellent Wipes, Citronella Tealight Candles, and Tiger Balm for itch relief.

Reasons why people aren't using "Malaria pills":

  • "I didn't want to have to take a pill every day."
  • "I heard that the pills mask the symptoms without fixing anything, so it actually is worse to take them."
  • "If you get malaria, you can just go to the hospital and start taking pills then.  It really isn't a big deal."
  • "Malaria? That is easily fixed. You should really be worried about Dengune Fever."

However, by far, the most common reason is:

  • "The side effects for Malaria medication are worse than Malaria. They makes you hallucinate.

^^This is the reason that most people don't take preventative malaria medication while traveling. Everyone sticks to 50% deet spray and hopes for the best. 

However, it would appear that this "hallucination" rumor is more rampant than the disease itself. Is it is true?  Well, that's harder to figure out.  

Click here for my mosquito prevention tips!

Do malaria pill hallucinations still exist?

How do you quantify mental hallucinations and nightmares as a side effect of taking a drug? How do you gauge the severity? How do you know if it affects everyone?  You can't. 

Officially, "strange behavior" is a listed side effect of Chloroquine, the drug was once the standard for malaria prevention. 

I've heard people say they know someone who has had horrible nightmares, or acted strangely while taking Chloroquine.  I've even heard reports of people seeking psychiatric help after prolonged Chloroquine use.

Chloroquine is the medicine that has a history of causing hallucinations and nightmares. 

What people don't realize - doctors have stopped advising patients to take Chloroquine.

I repeat, Chloroquine is typically not prescribed anymore. Malarone is the new the answer for malaria prevention.  It does the same thing as Chloroquine, but without all the - ahem- issues, people taking Chloroquine experienced...

....for the most part. 

As it turns out, "abnormal dreams" are also listed as side effect for Malarone, but these symptoms affect less than 10% of users. 

I've met 4 other people taking Malarone.  Have any of them had nightmares? No. Have I? Yes. Many. 

Starting within 24 hours of my first dose of Malarone, I started having terrible nightmares in my homestay in Sapa.  These were not normal nightmares.  They were personal. No monsters, no clowns... just scary things happening to my family, my family being in danger, or being with my family during a terrorist attack.

Everything felt so real, and it would take me the entire day to shake the dreams.

After I left Sapa, I stopped taking Malarone and the nightmares immediately stopped.  For weeks I had no bad dreams. 

I started taking Malarone 2 weeks ago when I entered Cambodia.  Guess what came back the first night?  The nightmares.  I had completely forgotten about the nightmares until I got one again, so I wasn't just imagining it.

I'm confident there is a connection between Malarone and my nightmares.  

So what is the verdict?

The chance of nightmares caused by Malaria prevention medicine is much smaller than it was previously, especially if you are taking Malarone and not Chloroquine.

Taking the medication is it still a personal choice.

Bug spray as much as you can (I use these convenient Mosquito Repellent Wipes) and if you get a fever, go to the hospital. Taking Malaria pills on top of that? Really up to you.

Truthfully, everyone is right - the bigger worry is Dengue Fever.   There is no prevention for it, and not much that can be done once it is contracted.

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Have you had an experience on Malarone or Chloroquine?  I would love to hear about it! madeline@thegal-ivanter.com

Information from people I have met, netdoctor, and drugs.com (1) and (2). 

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