Malaria is a serious tropical disease that can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Malaria is caused by a type of Plasmodium parasite passing into your bloodstream. This parasite is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Malaria is not found in the UK but is found in over 100 other countries that are located in tropical regions.
- Haiti and the Dominican Republic
- parts of the Middle East
- parts of Africa and Asia
- South America
- Central America
- certain Pacific islands
Malaria symptoms usually appear between 7 and 18 days after the initial infection. However, in some cases, symptoms may not manifest themselves for up to a year.
If you are travelling to parts of the world where malaria is widespread, it is important to be aware of these symptoms, which are:
- muscle pains
- a high temperature (38C or above)
- feeling hot and shivery
Malaria can worsen quickly and there are cases where serious complications can occur.
- severe anaemia – leads to drowsiness and weakness
- cerebral malaria – leads to seizures, brain damage and a coma
If you suspect you may have malaria or exhibit any of the symptoms, a prompt diagnosis can be made through a blood test. As soon as a diagnosis is made, immediate treatment can begin. Antimalarial medication is used to treat malaria.
The type of medication and length of treatment will depend on a number of factors, including:
- the severity of your symptoms
- the type of malaria you have contracted
- where you caught the malaria
- whether you are pregnant
- whether you took antimalarial medication to prevent contracting malaria
If you are visiting a country where there is a high risk of malaria, taking antimalarial medication can reduce your chance of getting malaria by 90%.
During your consultation with an Ahmeys travel health practitioner, you will undertake a travel risk assessment based on your itinerary and travel plans. They will also take into account any allergies and relevant medical history. Pregnant women are usually advised not to travel to high-risk areas as the effects of malaria are often more severe in pregnant women. However, our expert practitioners are well placed to discuss and assess the risks of antimalarial tablets with those who are pregnant.
Some antimalarial tablet courses can be taken 2-3 days before travelling, whilst others may need to be taken 2-3 week s before entering a malaria-endemic area. This is dependent on your individual medical history and treatment plan. A short trial of antimalarial tablets can also be taken before travelling to ensure you do not have an adverse reaction. If so, alternative antimalarial medication can be prescribed. Our aim is for you to leave your consultation feeling confident and fully informed.
Even if you have taken antimalarial, you should still take precautions to reduce your risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito, such as:
- using a quality insect repellent on exposed areas of skin
- wearing long-sleeved tops, trousers and socks
- sleeping in rooms with close-fitting gauze over the doors and windows
- using a mosquito net sprayed with insect repellent