Malaria is a serious infectious disease. It is one of the intermittent fevers which have a tendency to return again and again to haunt the sufferer. The word malaria comes from the Italian 'mala + aria', meaning bad air produced from damp earth and decaying vegetation.
It is one of the most widespread diseases in the world, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. The disease affects both children and adults alike.
There are four main types of malaria. These are vivax, falciparum, malariae and ovale. They are commonly called benign tertain malaria, quarten malaria, maligant tertain malaria and tertion fever. The most common symptom of all types of malaria is high fever, which may come every day, on alternate days or every fourth day. The fever is accompanied by chills, headache, shivering and pain in the limbs. The temperature comes down after some time with profuse sweating.
The onset of malaria in children is usually gradual. The child becomes dull and restless. He is disinterested in food and often vomits. Other common symptoms are abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhoea. The temperature may rise between 38 and 40 o C.
The fever may be continuous or may come in intervals. The child may have stiff neck and convulsions in case of high fever.
One of the main effects of malaria is anaemia, which develops more rapidly in children. Other complications of the disease are kidney failure and dysentery.
Malaria is caused by a tiny parasite called plasmodium. The parasite grows in the liver of a person for a few days and then enters the blood stream where in invades the red blood cells. The disease is spread by the female anopheles mosquito. She draws a small quantity of blood containing the parasites, when she bites a person who has malaria. These parasites then pass through several stages of development within the mosquito's body and finally find their way to its salivary glands. There they lie in wait for an opportunity to enter the bloodstream of the next person the mosquito bites. The malaria -carrying mosquito breeds in stagnant water.
The secondary cause of malaria , however, as in case of other infectious diseases, is wrong diet and faulty style of living, resulting in the system being clogged with accumulated systemic refuse and morbid matter. It is on this soil that the malaria germs breed. The liberal use of denatured foods of today, such as white sugar, white flour and products made from them, as well as tinned foods, strong tea and coffee, lower the vitality of the system and paves the way for the development of malaria.
The child-patient should be kept in bed. He should be given plenty of fluids, especially orange juice diluted in warm water for the first few days of the treatment. An ice bag should be applied to his head. Co-operative children can be given warm-water enema daily during this period to cleanse the bowels. After the fever has subsided, the patient may be placed for one or two days on an exclusive diet of fresh juicy fruits such as orange, grape- fruit, apple, pineapple, mango and papaya. Milk may be added to the fruit-diet after this period and this diet may be continued for further few days. Thereafter, the patient may be allowed gradually to embark upon a well-balanced diet of natural foods, consisting of seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits, with emphasis on whole grain cereals, fresh fruits and raw or lightly -cooked vegetables.
The child-patient should avoid tea, coffee, refined and processed foods, fried foods, condiments, pickles, white sugar, white flour and all products made from them. He should also avoid flesh foods.
The best way to reduce temperature naturally,during the course of the fever, is by means of the cold pack, which can be applied to the whole body. The procedure for this pack has been explained in the Appendix.