Symptoms of malaria 

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

Typically, the time between being infected and when symptoms start (incubation period) is 7 to 18 days, depending on the specific parasite you're 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
  • vomiting

These symptoms are often mild and can sometimes be difficult to identify as malaria.

With some types of malaria, the fever occurs in 48-hour cycles. During these cycles, you feel cold at first with shivering. You then develop a fever, accompanied by severe sweating and fatigue. These symptoms usually last between 6 and 12 hours.

Other symptoms of malaria can include:

  • muscle pains
  • diarrhoea
  • generally feeling unwell

The most serious type of malaria is caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. Without prompt treatment, this type could lead to you quickly developing severe and life-threatening complications, such as breathing problems and organ failure.

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.

You should still seek medical help even if it's several weeks, months or a year after you return from travelling.

Page last reviewed: 27/11/2015

Next review due: 27/11/2017