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Do I need antimalarials for my trip?

A bed with a mosquito net for malaria avoidance
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Easy steps to avoid malaria while traveling

Malaria starts with a mosquito bite and rapidly turns into a traveler’s nightmare. This subtropical and tropical feverish illness can escalate very fast, particularly if you have underlying health problems. Returning US travelers with malaria often relapse and need to take extended time off work to recover.

But malaria is preventable, with a combination of mosquito avoidance and malaria tablets.

What happens when you catch malaria?

As mentioned, malaria starts with a mosquito bite that you may not even notice. It can progress rapidly to a feverish illness with headaches and muscle pains. Some people vomit, too.

Suspected malaria is a medical emergency. If you are in or have recently come back from a region with malaria and you get these symptoms, see a doctor.

The World Health Organization’s malaria factsheet has more information about this disease.

Get malaria treated quickly

Malaria needs prompt, effective treatment. If you get a feverish illness while traveling, get advice from a healthcare provider promptly. It’s best not to wait until you return to US soil, as malaria can get worse very quickly.

Any feverish illness that starts after your return from the tropics needs medical attention.

Could I get malaria on my holiday?

Malaria is a problem in many nations, and travel health professionals use a malaria map to give advice to people going on holiday. This map can be quite hard to read, and changes with the seasons. Also, the drugs that prevent malaria need to be started before your arrival in the region where malaria is a risk, and you must continue the course of tablets until a certain number of days after the end of your stay. It can be tricky to work out the right thing to do, so getting advice from a travel health nurse or pharmacist is a good plan.

Where can I get malaria prophylaxis and travel health advice near me?

We’d advise buying antimalarial tablets in the US at a travel clinic or pharmacy, rather than at your destination. Not all countries have the same strict controls on medicines as the US, so if you buy malaria prevention drugs abroad you can’t always be sure of what you’re getting. Also, buying malaria drugs at your destination may put pressure on local supply chains.

Avoid mosquito bites to avoid malaria

The protection from your malaria pills is not complete without a complementary regime of mosquito bite avoidance. This will include: insect repellent, loose-fitting clothing with good limb coverage and sleeping in a mosquito-proof space

These steps will also reduce your exposure to other insect-borne diseases such as:

  • Dengue fever
  • yellow fever
  • Chikungunya
  • Zika
  • Japanese encephalitis

For more detail on avoiding mosquitos and the diseases they carry, see our travel article.