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Malaria

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite. It is usually spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Malaria can also spread through infected blood products or shared needles.

What increases my risk for malaria?

Your risk is increased if you live in or travel to an area where malaria is common. Your risk also increases if you have a weak immune system. This includes pregnant women, infants and children, and people with HIV.

What are the signs and symptoms of malaria?

  • Fever
  • Shaking chills
  • Sweating
  • Headache and muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea

How is malaria diagnosed?

You may need blood tests to show which kind of malaria you have. Blood tests may also show any damage to your organs. A chest x-ray may also be needed. These tests will help your healthcare provider plan the best treatment for you.

How is malaria treated?

  • Malaria medicine is given to kill the parasites that are causing your infection.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.

How can malaria be prevented?

  • Use an insect repellant. Apply an insect repellant to your skin, clothing, and other fabrics, such as blankets. Ask your healthcare provider which insect repellant is best to use.
  • Cover your skin. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to keep your skin covered.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net. Spray insect repellant on your mosquito net. Check your net for holes often.
  • Protect your home. Put screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. Use insecticide inside your home to kill mosquitoes that come into your house.
  • Remove all standing water around your home. Mosquitoes lay their eggs and mature in water.

How do I prevent the spread of infections?


  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
    Handwashing
  • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Then wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer. Do not stand close to anyone who is sneezing or coughing.
  • Social distancing is recommended. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid anyone who is infected, but this may be difficult. An infected person may be able to spread the virus before signs or symptoms begin. The virus can also be spread for a few days after a person recovers. Until more is known, limit contact with others. Avoid crowds as much as possible. Do not shake hands with, hug, or kiss a person as a greeting. If you do shake hands, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible. You do not need to wear a medical mask if you are well and not caring for an infected person.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. A vaccine for the new coronavirus is not yet available. Any infection can affect your immune system. A weakened immune system makes you more vulnerable to the new coronavirus. Talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccine history. He or she will tell you which vaccines you need, and when to get them.
    • Get the influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as recommended each year. The flu vaccine is available starting in September or October. Flu viruses change, so it is important to get a flu vaccine every year. A flu infection can make COVID-19 worse if you have them at the same time. The flu can also cause signs and symptoms that are similar to COVID-19.
    • Get the pneumonia vaccine if recommended. This vaccine is usually recommended every 5 years. Your provider will tell you when to get this vaccine, if needed.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have sudden shortness of breath.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a severe headache.
  • You are confused or sleepier than usual.
  • Your skin and the whites of your eyes are yellow.
  • Your signs and symptoms get worse or do not go away, even after treatment.
  • Your signs and symptoms return after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Malaria

Associated drugs

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

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