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What Are The Symptoms Of Malaria?

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Contracting malaria

Like many people from the UK, Alex Carter contracted malaria whilst travelling. Now he is an anti-malaria campaigner raising money and awareness about this life-threatening disease.

“I fell ill with malaria whilst on a rural village camp up in Northern Ghana during a teaching placement. The first thing I noticed was feeling dehydrated. I thought it was simply exhaustion, but I was advised to go to the hospital to get checked out, something that saved my life. When I arrived at the hospital I was treated immediately for malaria facilparum, the most severe form of the disease. I was treated with antimalarials and morphine to stem the pain. I wish someone had told me about the symptoms of Malaria and the best ways to prevent it.”

What is malaria and how do you get it?

Malaria is a disease spread by night-biting mosquitoes infected by malaria parasites. One infected mosquito bite will infect a person with malaria parasites¹.

What are the symptoms of malaria

Some forms of malaria will take 8 days or longer to develop, whilst other more severe forms, like malaria falciparum can develop within hours1. Malaria parasites have been known to stay inactive within the body for a year after a person has been bitten so it is important that all travellers recognise the symptoms and tell their GP if they have travelled to high-risk countries within the last year.

The common malaria symptoms include:

• Temperature of 38 °C
• Sweats and Chills
• Muscle pains
• Headaches
• Cough
• Diarrhoea

Antimalarials - Malaria prevention tablets

Travellers should always visit their GP before travelling to a high-risk country to discuss malaria prevention. The majority of UK travellers who catch malaria do not take the proper precautions to prevent it. These include taking antimalarial tablets.

Types of antimalarial tablets

Malarone – 1 tablet taken per day starting two days before travel, during, and for seven days after leaving the high-risk country. Side-effects can include upset stomachs, headaches, rashes, and mouth ulcers².

Avloclor – Two tablets once a week starting one week before travel, during, and for four weeks after returning. Side effects can include a bitter taste in the mouth, headaches and nausea. Many strains of malaria are now resistant to Avloclor².

Vibramycin-D (also known as Doxycycline) – One tablet per day starting two days before travel, during, and for four weeks after leaving the high-risk country. Side effects can include sensitivity to the sun, stomach upsets, thrush, and heartburn².

Lariam – One tablet taken weekly starting three weeks before travel, during and for four weeks after returning. Side-effects can include dizziness, headaches, insomnia and nightmares. Lariam is not suitable for anyone who has had mild depression in the past or has a family history of mental health problems².

Antimalarials are not 100% effective at stopping a person catching malaria so it is also important for travellers to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

Malaria prevention - using a mosquito net

Malaria-infected mosquitoes come out at night so it is important to sleep under a properly constructed mosquito net. Always hang a mosquito net away from the body as mosquitoes can bite through the net if it is touching skin.

Malaria prevention – applying DEET

Applying DEET insect repellent regularly will help protect again mosquito bites. Sensitive areas like the hands and face should be topped up regularly. Wearing loose clothes, long sleeves and trousers will help minimise the areas of skin a mosquito can bite.

This video was made with the generous assistance of:

Dr Chris Drakeley
Director of the Malaria Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Malaria No More UK

The Malaria Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine houses the largest number of malaria researchers, students and support staff in Europe. The Centre is unique in its size and breadth and draws together the diverse research and teaching activities carried out at the School.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is a renowned research-led postgraduate institution of public health and global health. Its mission is to improve health in the UK and worldwide through the pursuit of excellence in research, postgraduate teaching and advanced training in national and international public health and tropical medicine, and through informing policy and practice in these areas. Part of the University of London, the School is the largest institution of its kind in Europe with a remarkable depth and breadth of expertise encompassing many disciplines associated with public health.


1. NHS Choices – Malaria. Date: 05.03.2011. Website:

2. NHS Choices – Antimalarias. Date: 05.03.2010. Website:


10544 Revised November 2012

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