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What is malaria?

Malaria is an important cause of fever in travellers returning from Africa, Asia and South America. It is an infection caused by the malaria parasite (Plasmodium), which is transmitted to humans via the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Around 1,500 cases of malaria are seen in the UK each year. Travellers are at increased risk of malaria if they have not regularly taken preventative medication (prophylaxis) or used other protective measures such as mosquito nets and insect repellent.

What are the symptoms of malaria?

Most people infected with malaria will have symptoms within three months of returning from their travels, but they can appear later. Common symptoms of malaria include: fever, headache, shivering or chills and muscle aches.

How do you test for malaria?

Malaria can be diagnosed with a blood test to look for malaria parasites in your blood using a microscope. If you have a fever or any of the symptoms of malaria and you have travelled to a malaria risk area in the last 12 months, you will be tested for malaria. At UCLH, you should have the result of this test within 1.5 hours of having the blood test during weekdays.

Is malaria dangerous?

If you think you have malaria it is important that you see a doctor the same day that you develop a fever. There are very effective treatments available, but malaria can be fatal if left untreated. It can also lead to serious complications with your lungs, kidneys and brain.

How is malaria treated?

The choice of malaria treatment is decided by your doctor according to the species (type) of malaria, the severity of your illness and whether you are able to take tablets. Most people will be treated with tablets, but some patients need intravenous treatments (through a drip into the vein). Some patients with non- severe malaria can be treated as an outpatient with a tablet called RIAMET. This means you can take your treatment at home, but you must come back for review immediately if feel more unwell.

Can malaria be avoided?

Medication, or ‘prophylaxis’ can be used to prevent malaria. If you are travelling to a malaria area, it is essential you go to a travel clinic for advice on this, ideally at least 4 weeks before you travel. You should also use simple measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitos such as sleeping under a bed net and using insect repellent. Having had malaria before does not mean you will not get malaria again, even if you grew up in a country where you had malaria many times in the past.

Is malaria infectious?

Malaria cannot be passed directly between people so you don’t need to worry about spreading it. You cannot donate blood for 3 years after having malaria.

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How to take Riamet (your malaria treatment)

  • You need to take an anti-malaria medication called Riamet.
  • Take 4 tablets of Riamet at each time point :( 0, 8, 24, 36, 48 and 60 hours).
  • Your doctor or nurse will help you to fill in the table below so you know the date and time to take each of your doses. It is essential you complete the entire course of tablets.
Dose Number: Time from first dose Take Day & Date  Time
Dose 1: At 0 hours (in clinic/A&E) 4 tablets    
Dose 2: At 8 hours 4 tablets    
Dose 3: At 24 hours 4 tablets    
Dose 4: At 36 hours 4 tablets    
Dose 5: At 48 hours 4 tablets    
Dose 6: At 60 hours 4 tablets    


Take the tablets with or just after eating fatty food/drink (e.g. milk). If you forget to take your Riamet, take it as soon as you remember, but do not take a double dose of Riamet. If it is nearly time for your next doseask your doctor for advice.
Take each dose at the right time and finish the entire course.

Ensure you have given us a working UK mobile telephone number that we can contact you on if needed.

If you are breastfeeding, please discuss with your doctor before taking Riamet.

If you are taking a contraceptive pill, use an additional contraceptive method e.g. condoms for the next one month.

Do not start any other medication without informing your doctor/pharmacist.
Come back to A&E if you vomit within one hour of taking your tablets, if your fevers continue, or if you feel more unwell

Do not pass your Riamet on to others – it may be harmful to them, and this will mean you will not receive treatment for your malaria, which may be life-threatening




Face to face/telephone:

Contact details

The Hospital for Tropical Diseases

2nd Floor

Mortimer Market Centre Capper Street



020 3447 5968

Switchboard: 020 3456 7890

Website www.the


Further information

Have you travelled to a tropical country in the last 6-12 months and are you acutely unwell? You can be seen in our emergency walk-in clinic Monday to Friday 9am-4pm.

Our travel medicine service offers specialist travel advice including for individuals with complex health conditions. We offer this on a privately and via NHS referral basis.

Please contact: or 020 3447 7999 for more information about our services.

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