Malaria Pills

Each Monday in Vietnam and for 6 weeks after leaving, we choked down a large orange anti-malaria pill, cloroquine-primiequine-phosphate. With the tablet came 2 or 3 days of diarrhea. A few men opted out of the pills but most of us took them and kept on pooping. Many foods and the reconstituted milk available at our mess caused diarrhea anyway, so what the hell. Constipation was seldom a problem but if someone was, the chocolate version of reconstituted milk came with a 15- minute guarantee.

Come shit-burning detail, the cans were likely to be slurry with a small number of floaters and some solids on the bottom. It was a superior product for shit burning but that is another story.

Late in 1968 we started taking a small white pill the other 6 days of the week. It resulted in diarrhea everyday. More men began to question the whole concept behind taking all these pills for diseases we did not have at home and knew nothing about. Our commanders pushed hard for everyone to take them and explained that the orange pill only protected us from 1 of 4 types of malaria. Dapsone pills from American Home Products would protect us against the other 3 types. I continued to take them but an increasing number of men opted out by ditching their pills.

Mosquitoes were part of the country and many species were determined to have some blood from American visitors. I fell asleep partly submerged in a swamp late one night and by morning my exposed skin appeared solid red. Small trails from each bite created a red carpet on my skin. I wanted to tear off my skin for a week until the itching urge finally began to decrease. Until then I had avoided the DEET- based mosquito repellent, but this event changed my mind. Then and now “DEET” makes my skin tingle and not in a good way.


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