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What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite. It is usually spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes. It can also spread through infected blood, such as from a blood transfusion.

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 taken to show which kind of malaria you have. Blood tests may also show any damage to your organs. The tests will also help your healthcare provider plan the best treatment for you.

How is malaria treated?

  • Malaria medicine: This is given to kill the parasites that are causing your infection. The kind of medicine used depends on what kind of parasite is causing the malaria.
  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain and fever. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • 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 if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

What are the risks of malaria?

You may get malaria again. The infection may spread to your brain. This can cause swelling of your brain or brain damage. Fluid may build up in your lungs. Malaria can cause your kidneys or liver to fail, or your spleen to rupture. The infection can damage your red blood cells, which can cause severe anemia. You may have severely low blood sugar. Malaria can cause premature delivery of your baby, or a miscarriage. These problems can be life-threatening.

How can malaria be prevented?

  • Spray your clothing and skin: 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. Follow directions.
  • Cover your skin: Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to keep your skin covered. Do not go outside at night.
  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have a severe headache.
  • You are confused or sleepier than usual.
  • Your skin and the whites of your eyes are yellow.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have sudden shortness of breath.

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 caregivers 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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Malaria

Associated drugs

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference