A couple of weeks ago, I headed down to the local health clinic to get the proper shots for my first trip to Africa.
As I walked in – I realized it was the first day before school and the waiting room was packed with kids waiting for their immunizations.
The lovely receptionist asked where I was traveling to. I told her I was traveling to Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana for the first time. She typed furiously into her computer, clicked a bunch of buttons, and asked if I had ever had a massive lists of shots.
Back to the waiting room till my name was called. I headed back to the room, where the nurse had quite the arsenal laid out. Eight shots in all – in various vials, with needles galore. She was quite a pro – sticking me in my right arm, then my left arm, then mixing it up and doing a double in the right, and then a double in the left. It was a dizzying blur of pain in both arms. How can anyone do heroin?
I thought I was done, but she had saved the best for last. On top of all the shots, I also needed to take Malaria pills. She handed me a sheet and as I scanned my options, it looked pretty bleak.
Option #1 – Mefloquine. 250mg by mouth weekly, same day of each week. Possible Side effects: Headache, nausea, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, vivid dream (aka nightmares), visual disturbances, GI disturbance, insomnia, depression, agitation, restlessness, mood change.
Pros: Well, you do only have to take it once a week and visual disturbances could be like legally experiencing LSD.
Cons: What kind of seat mate am I going to be if I’m going through agitation and GI disturbances on the plane? I love how they soften nightmares as “vivid dreams” and it seems I would be an emotional basket case as well with visual disturbances.
Option #2 – Chloroquine – 500 mg by mouth weekly, same day of each week. Possible side effects: Nausea, vomiting, headache, sleep disturbance, dizziness, blurred vision, itching may worsen symptoms of psoriasis, temporary hair loss.
Pros: Once again side effect of sleep disturbance. But I never sleep on planes anyway so it wouldn’t be that bad. Plus you only have to take it once a week again.
Cons: Temporary hair loss? I’ve been blessed with a full mane and I’m not sure I want to see that fall off. We have improved to only having to endure blurred vision and dizziness – no more visual disturbances.
Option #3 – Malarone. 250mg by mouth daily starting 1-2 days before. Take with food or a milky drink. Possible side effects: Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache.
Pros:The list of side effects is dwindling though you do have to take the pills quite a few days in a row and who doesn’t want a milky drink?
Cons:I’m still not sure I can deal with vomiting on a plane though. Once I was traveling with my family to Denmark in a 5 seat row. The poor guy in the middle seat got sick half way through and had to use the airsickness bag pretty much the whole flight. He even had his Denmark flag shirt as he was meeting some girl he had met online.
Option #4: Doxycycline. 100 mg by mouth daily starting 1-2 days before, during and continue for 4 weeks after leaving area. Side effects: Sun sensitivity, nausea, stomach pain.
Pros: Seems to me the medicine with the least amount of side effects. I can probably deal with stomach pain.
Cons: If you miss one day of taking this one, it’s as if you haven’t taken it at all. Can I possibly remember to take a pill every day? Sun sensitivity? My skin type already burns after about 30 minutes in the sun – this will probably speed that up to 15.
Cast your vote in the comments section on which of the four I should take!