This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
If you develop a fever within a week or more of arriving in a country where malaria is present, see a doctor or a health professional within 24 hours. If you get any illness that you think could be malaria within a year of returning from an area where malaria is common, see your GP as soon as possible.
The sooner you're diagnosed with malaria, the sooner you can be treated. Early treatment reduces the likelihood of complications. Therefore, if you suspect that you have malaria, see a doctor or health professional as soon as possible.
If you're travelling to an area where you're unlikely to receive medical attention within 24 hours, your GP may advise you to carry emergency malaria treatment with you. Use it if you develop a fever and you can't reach a doctor within 24 hours. Your GP should provide you with written instructions, which will explain how and when to take it, and any side-effects you may have. It’s important to see a doctor as soon as you can after taking emergency treatment.
You can still get malaria even if you have taken antimalarial medicines and protected yourself from getting bitten by mosquitoes. If you develop any illness within a year of coming back from an area that is likely to have malaria, it's possible that you may have malaria, especially if your illness occurs during the first six months that you're back. If this happens, visit your GP as soon as possible and tell him or her that you have visited an area where malaria is common and how long you have been back for.
No, you can't catch malaria directly from another person. It's spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. However, in extremely rare cases it can be transmitted through the blood of an infected person.
Malaria can't spread directly from person to person. Very rarely, malaria can be transmitted if you have a blood transfusion and the blood was taken from an infected person. If you have a blood transfusion in an area where malaria is common, there is always a risk that you could get malaria. Because of this risk, if you do have a blood transfusion, you may need to take some malaria treatment after the transfusion. To minimise your risk, if you have any condition that means you may need a blood transfusion while travelling, don't visit an area where malaria is present.
Malaria can also be transmitted if you're injected with a needle that has already been used by a person with malaria, but this is also rare. Never share needles or syringes for injecting drugs.
Yes, most people make a full recovery from malaria.
Most travellers who were healthy before they got malaria make a full recovery if they quickly receive appropriate treatment. Complications usually only occur if you don't receive treatment quickly enough or if you aren't given the correct treatment.
Yes, it's possible that your symptoms may reoccur. But if you have received the correct treatment and you don't visit an area with malaria again, then it's unlikely.
Two of the four types of Plasmodium parasite that cause malaria have a dormant stage. This means that the parasite can live in your body for months without making you ill until it 'wakes up' and causes the symptoms of malaria. Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale can both remain in your liver in their dormant form and periodically release parasites into your blood and cause reoccurring bouts of malaria symptoms.
It's possible to treat and prevent malaria relapses. However, if you don't receive the appropriate treatment the symptoms may come back again. This may happen if you’re given inadequate treatment or treatment for the wrong type of malaria parasite.
If you do start to get malaria symptoms again, contact your GP as soon as possible.
No, you can't give blood for six months after you have returned from an area with malaria.
After six months, you should be able to give blood again. However, still let the National Blood Service know that you have been to an area where malaria is common. Also, inform them if you have visited either Central or South America at any time. They may want to test your blood for malaria.
If you have had malaria before, you may not be able to give blood. Contact the National Blood Service or your GP for further information.
If you have malaria, the time it will take you to recover will depend on your individual circumstances but most people start to feel better two days after having treatment.
The time it will take for you to recover will depend on the following.
Most healthy people start to get better two days after having treatment and their fever goes after around four days. It’s very important to get treatment as the P. falciparum parasite can be fatal within 24 hours.
Ask your doctor for advice on the best, most effective treatment for you.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
Produced by Stephanie Hughes, Bupa Health Information Team, February 2012.