Symptoms - Malaria

Symptoms of malaria can develop as quickly as 7 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 of 38C or above
  • feeling hot and shivery
  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • muscle pains
  • diarrhoea
  • generally feeling unwell

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

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

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: 22/08/2018
Next review due: 22/08/2021