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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Toucan under malaria netMalaria

Note: Country specific malaria information and malaria maps are available via Destinations.

Introduction

Malaria is widespread in many tropical and subtropical countries and is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. You cannot be vaccinated against malaria, but you can protect yourself against this disease using the ABCDE approach to prevention which stands for:

Awareness of risk

Find out if there is a risk of malaria in the country you intend to visit by accessing country specific malaria information and malaria maps via our Destinations section. Note that the risk of malaria can vary between and within countries and depending on the time of year.

Bite Prevention

Mosquito bite avoidance is essential; no malaria tablet is considered 100% effective. Take practical measures to take to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria typically bite after sunset, however, day biting mosquitoes transmit other diseases, bite avoidance should therefore be practiced at all times.
  • Wearing loose long-sleeved clothing and long trousers can help prevent bites.
  • Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spray an insecticide or repellent on them. Insect repellents should also be used on exposed skin.
  • Spraying insecticides in the room, burning pyrethroid coils and heating insecticide impregnated tablets all help to control mosquitoes.
  • If sleeping in an unscreened room, or out of doors, a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide is a sensible precaution. Portable, lightweight nets are available.
  • Garlic, Vitamin B and ultrasound devices do not prevent bites.

See our Mosquito Bite Avoidance for more detailed information.

Chemoprophylaxis (taking malaria prevention tablets)

Find out if malaria tablets are advisable for the country you intend to visit via our Destinations section.

It is important to discuss malaria tablet suitability with a qualified doctor, nurse or pharmacist. Ensure that you can tolerate the recommended tablets and that the tablets are appropriate for your destination(s). Remember no malaria tablet is considered 100% effective.

Taking Antimalarial Tablets:

  • Start before arrival to risk area as guided by your travel health advisor (with some tablets you should start three weeks before).
  • Take the tablets regularly and as directed.
  • It is extremely important to continue taking tablets as directed after you have returned, to cover the incubation period of the disease.

In Britain, Chloroquine and/or Proguanil can be purchased from local pharmacies or chemists. All other drugs require a doctor's prescription.

Further information on the commonly used drugs can be found via the following links:

Diagnosis and prompt treatment

If you think you might have malaria it is very important to seek medical attention quickly as the most serious forms of disease can become life-threatening within 24 hours. The most serious form of malaria usually occur between 6 - 30 days (and occasionally longer) after exposure.

Symptoms usually include fever, shivering and sweating; muscle pains, headache and vomiting are common. Symptoms are often described as ‘flu-like’ and can be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms.  If in doubt, seek advice.

If you get a fever between one week after first potential exposure and up to one year after your return, you should seek medical attention and tell the doctor that you have been in a malaria risk area.

Emergency Standby Medication for Malaria

If you are travelling to remote areas where you will be unlikely to access medical care promptly you may be advised to carry a course of emergency standby medication for malaria.

For further information please see our Emergency Standby Medication for Malaria section.

 

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