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Tips for Taking Lariam: a Comprehensive Guide for Travelers

Lariam, known scientifically as mefloquine, is a prescription medication used to prevent and treat malaria, a disease caused by parasites transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Malaria is prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions, making Lariam a vital part of travel medicine for individuals visiting these areas. The World Health Organization highlights the importance of malaria prevention, particularly in high-risk zones, underscoring Lariam's role in safeguarding travelers' health.

The purpose of Lariam goes beyond mere prevention; it serves as a treatment option for those diagnosed with non-severe forms of malaria. Its effectiveness hinges on its ability to interfere with the life cycle of the malaria parasite in the human body, thereby halting the disease's progression. For travelers, Lariam provides a dual-action solution: preventing potential infection and serving as a treatment measure, ensuring their ventures into malaria-endemic areas are safer.

Before You Swallow: Pre-take Assessments and Consultations

Undergoing thorough assessments and consultations before taking Lariam is crucial for ensuring its safety and effectiveness. Health professionals typically recommend a comprehensive medical check-up to identify any underlying conditions that may interact negatively with the medication. This step is vital as Lariam is not suitable for everyone; individuals with a history of mental health problems, certain heart conditions, or allergic reactions to similar drugs may need alternative malaria prophylaxis. Consulting a travel health specialist or a pharmacist also provides an opportunity to understand the proper use of Lariam, its dosage, and any potential interactions with current medications.

Moreover, the pre-take consultation process is an opportune time to discuss the itinerary details with healthcare providers. Given that malaria transmission rates vary widely across different regions and seasons, a healthcare professional can advise on the necessity of Lariam based on the specific risk associated with the traveler’s destination. This personalized advice ensures that travelers are not only protected against malaria but also receive care tailored to their health profile and travel plans. Such pre-departure preparations play a significant role in minimizing health risks and ensuring a safe journey.

Navigating Side Effects: Recognizing and Managing Symptoms

Lariam, known generically as mefloquine, is an antimalarial medication with a range of potential side effects that travelers should be aware of before starting treatment. Common side effects include nausea, dizziness, headache, and insomnia, while more severe reactions may include anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior. It's critical for users to immediately report any adverse symptoms to their healthcare provider, as early detection and management can significantly mitigate health risks. Understanding the full spectrum of side effects—both common and severe—allows travelers to make informed decisions about their health while abroad.

Management of Lariam's side effects involves a proactive approach, starting with a thorough medical consultation before taking the medication. Healthcare providers can offer strategies for managing mild side effects and will advise on the best course of action if severe reactions occur. For some, adjusting the dose or switching to an alternative medication may be necessary. Additionally, travelers are encouraged to maintain a wellness journal to track their health status and any side effects experienced. This record can be invaluable for healthcare providers in tailoring individual care plans and ensuring the safest and most effective malaria prevention strategy.

Timing Is Key: Optimal Scheduling for Dosing

Adhering to an optimal dosing schedule with Lariam (mefloquine) is crucial for ensuring the drug's effectiveness and reducing the risk of malaria infection. It is typically recommended to start taking the medication 1 to 2 weeks before entering a malaria-endemic area, continue throughout your stay, and for 4 weeks after leaving the area. This timing ensures that the drug reaches effective levels in your bloodstream well before you're exposed to malaria and maintains those levels throughout your travel and after your return. Consistency in taking the medication on the same day each week is vital for maintaining its protective effect against the disease.

Understanding the importance of dosing frequency and duration cannot be overstated. Missing doses or ending the course prematurely can significantly decrease Lariam's effectiveness, potentially leading to a higher susceptibility to contracting malaria. Travelers should also be aware that the day chosen to take Lariam each week should be strictly adhered to; this consistency aids in reducing potential side effects and ensures the medication’s efficacy. Planning the dosing schedule around a weekly routine or setting reminders can help in adhering to this regimen, ensuring that protection against malaria is maintained throughout the travel period and beyond.

Mixing Medicines: What to Avoid When Taking Lariam

When taking Lariam, it's vital to consider potential interactions with other medications, as these can affect the efficacy of the drug and increase the risk of side effects. Certain antidepressants, antifungals, antibiotics, and anti-seizure medications are known to have adverse interactions with Lariam. This is because Lariam can alter the levels of these drugs in the blood, potentially leading to either an increase in side effects or a decrease in their effectiveness. Before starting Lariam, disclose all medications you're taking to your healthcare provider, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins, to ensure safe and effective malaria prevention.

Moreover, some substances can exacerbate side effects related to Lariam or diminish its protective effects against malaria. For instance, consuming alcohol or certain vaccines may interfere with how Lariam works or increase the likelihood of experiencing unpleasant side effects. It's also crucial to avoid taking other antimalarial drugs concurrently with Lariam unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional. Being open and honest about your complete health picture, including any recreational drug use or supplements, allows for a safer travel experience with minimal health risks.

Beyond the Pill: Lifestyle Tips for Malaria Prevention

Malaria prevention goes well beyond taking antimalarial drugs like Lariam. One essential measure is ensuring your living and sleeping areas are mosquito-proof. Use bed nets treated with insecticide, preferably long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), to protect against mosquito bites during the night. These nets provide a physical barrier and kill or repel mosquitoes when they come into contact. Additionally, applying insect repellent on exposed skin, especially in the evening and during the night, can further reduce the risk of malaria. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus have been shown to be most effective.

Another crucial aspect of malaria prevention involves being mindful of the environment and time of day. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria are most active from dusk to dawn, so avoiding outdoor activities during these hours can help minimize exposure. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants during this time is also advisable to protect the skin from bites. Inside, using air conditioning or fans can disrupt mosquitoes' ability to fly, and ensuring windows and doors are screened or closed can help keep mosquitoes out. Simple steps like these, combined with medication, play a significant role in preventing malaria.

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