Symptoms of malaria 

Symptoms of malaria can develop as quickly as seven days after you are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Typically, the time between being infected and when symptoms start (incubation period) is seven to 18 days, depending on the specific parasite you are infected with. However, in some cases it can take up to a year for symptoms to develop.

The initial symptoms of malaria are flu-like and include a high temperature (fever), headache, sweats, chills and vomiting. These symptoms are often mild and can sometimes be difficult to identify as malaria.

With some types of malaria, the fever occurs in four to eight hour cycles. During these cycles, you feel cold at first with shivering that lasts for up to an hour. You then develop a fever that lasts for two to six hours, accompanied by severe sweating.

Other symptoms of malaria can include: 

  • muscle pains
  • diarrhoea
  • generally feeling unwell

If you become infected with the most serious type of malaria, caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, there is a risk you could quickly develop severe and life-threatening complications such as breathing problems and organ failure if you are not treated promptly.

Read more about the complications of malaria.

Seeking medical advice

Seek medical advice immediately if you develop symptoms of malaria during or after a visit to an area where the disease is found, even if it is several weeks, months or a year after you return from travelling.

Page last reviewed: 09/01/2014

Next review due: 09/01/2016