I have actually met a number of people here who have retired themselves from taking anti-malarial drugs. There are only 3 drugs that I have seen prescribed for malaria in this region – Doxycycline, Larium and Malarone.
I am no doctor of tropical medicine but it appears that doxycycline works well for short-term use but is not recommended for long-term use. It has an added advantage of being an anti-biotic so gives protection against a number of other nasty bugs as well. It is also not good for the skin.
Malarone is the newest and (to this point in time) appears to have the least side-effects, but has the disadvantage of being horrendously expensive compared to the other two.
Good old Larium tends to be the one used most – if you can tolerate it. It has a long history of side-effects ranging from nausea, to sleeplessness and in extreme cases, psychotic disturbances. It is not recommended for people with any history of mental illness. Initially I tried Larium. The doctor had warned that there was a 10% chance of noticeable disturbances to sleep patterns and dreams. The recommendation of avoiding alcohol was noted as was the observation that some people used alcohol to adjust the psychotic side-effects to their satisfaction. This sounded great.
Alas, I was extremely disappointed that I did not experience any psychotic wanderings but it did make me feel nauseous.
Back to tennis. Several people had said that if you do want to take a rest from anti-malarials, at least wait until you settle down and develop a pattern of behaviour designed to reduce the chances of being bitten. Using insect repellant as second nature is the first. Others include : wearing long sleeves or long trousers; covering the feet at night; sleeping with a mosquito net; having insect screens; regular spraying of house, car and office; minimising pools of water around the house; even eating Vegemite (Vitamin B is said to deter the little buggers).
Apart from the Vegemite, all these measures are a bit on the tedious side. But perhaps the most exciting response is the battery-powered “fly swat”. This little tennis racquet-like object (actually more like a racquet ball bat) has criss-crossing electrical wires which vapourise the little mosquito critters with a most satisfying ray-gun-like zap.
A word of warning – where I grew up, mosquitos were like Japanese Zeros. You could hear them screaming in on their bombing raids and usually felt them sticking their proboscus into you. But here, they seem to be much smaller and fly in silent-running mode and do their bit without you knowing. So there really are a lot more of the critters than I think. When I sat in a restaurant watching the barman waving his “racquet” about and obtaining full satisfaction every 5 seconds, I realised there is a life-long sporting vocation out there.
This provides many hours of fun if you are not a member of the Dili tennis club. Every house should have one.