Malaria in Children

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Malaria is a major cause of death amongst young children and a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds. One in five of child deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa are attributable to Malaria and the disease affects children differently to adults. The highest level of mortality occurs in the first two years of life but immunity develops by the age of five.

Plasmodium falciparum is the most common cause of death amongst children and is the main type of parasite to infect children. Malaria does not present itself in the same way that it does in adults, as children do not often show the classic signs of fever. Malaria often makes severe anaemia, hypoglycaemia and acidosis. Renal impairment is also often present. Children can become very ill and develop severe complications quite quickly if not treated.

Children usually start of asymptomatic and then become very drowsy and apathetic. Usually they complain of aching muscles and they can become anorexic. Cerebral malaria is more common amongst children and this can lead to seizures and they can slip into a coma. Frequent infections are also common.

Treatment is very important amongst children because you need to get them treatment as soon as possible to stop the possibility of complications.  Blood schizontioldes are given to the child to combat the infection. Antimalarials will also be needed and Chloroquine and Quinine are quite suitable for children. Paracetamol can also be given to help reduce the fever. Children can suffer from severe anaemia and dehydration so fluids are important and need to be administered frequently. If there is a delay in treatment, there is more chance of complications and there is a higher risk of death. 25% of deaths are due to cerebral malaria with or without treatment so it is very important that malaria is treated as early as possible.

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