How to Prevent Malaria

Dr Charlotte Hammerton

Medically reviewed by

Dr Charlotte Hammerton

Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2019

10 tips for malaria prevention

Young woman sat on a bannister outside investigating ways to prevent malaria on her phone

Key takeaways

  • Manage your risk of malaria properly by planning your travels and checking the risk where you’re going

  • Insect and mosquito repellents should be used and applied after sunscreen

  • Stay covered up, make sure you’re behind screen doors or windows at night, and always use a bed net treated with insecticide

  • If you need them, make sure you take antimalarial tablets and take them as prescribed, every day while you’re there and as directed afterwards

  • Keep an eye out for malaria symptoms, such as fever, and always discuss any symptoms you do get with your doctor as soon as possible

Going to an exotic destination soon? Have you checked whether the region is a malaria-risk area?

Are you aware of the essential tips on how to prevent malaria?

Find out the top ten ways to avoid getting ill on vacation and make the most of your holidays.

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The top 10 tips for preventing malaria

1. Determine your level of risk

Inform yourself about your destination and the risk of getting malaria. Things you should consider are the time of year you are travelling, the duration of your stay, the activities you plan to do and where you will be staying. The risk for infection can vary considerably, even within a single country. Successful malaria prophylaxis depends on your knowledge – make sure you know about malaria risk areas before you go.

2. Stay in well-screened areas at night

Avoid sleeping outside or in the vicinity of areas where mosquitoes like to live, e.g. standing water (tyres, lakes, waste dumps). If you are sleeping in a tent, make sure that there are no holes anywhere and keep the door closed at all times. These may be very basic rules, but they can significantly increase your malaria prevention effort's success.

3. Always use a bed-net impregnated with insecticides

Check that the net is not damaged and always ensure it is properly tucked underneath your mattress. The room itself should have additional nets attached to the windows and doors. Keep the air conditioning on, as mosquitoes tend to stay out of cool, air-conditioned rooms.

4. Use mosquito repellent

Use an insect spray containing pyrethroids in all living and sleeping areas, especially during the evening and nighttime hours.

5. Go for long sleeves

Wear long-sleeve shirts and trousers in the evening and at night: the less skin that is exposed, the better. Additionally, you can treat your clothes with permethrin to increase your protection.

6. Insect repellent again

Insect repellent creams or lotions should be applied to any remaining exposed parts of the skin, especially in the evening and during the night. It is advisable to apply the repellent during the daytime as well. You never know, a particular mosquito might decide to bite you in broad daylight.

We recommend using repellents that contain DEET, with at least 20% DEET concentration. The protection from 20% DEET lasts for roughly 1 to 3 hours and increases up to around 6 hours for 30%. 50% DEET lasts for approximately 12 hours.

7. Sunscreen comes first - repellent second

If you’re using sunscreen and repellent at the same time, sunscreen should be applied first and the insect repellent second.

Because DEET can make sunscreen less effective, at least 30 to 50 SPF sunscreen is recommended.

At night you still need to use repellent, but sunscreen isn’t needed from dusk to dawn.

8. Check the malaria risks - Get an antimalarial (if necessary)

Depending on the overall malaria risk at your destination, it might be necessary to take malaria chemoprophylaxis (anti-malarial medication), either daily or weekly, to prevent malaria. Please consult with a travel clinic, healthcare provider or an online doctor service like ours well before your departure to discuss your specific preventive needs.

Depending on the medication you use, you will have to start taking the medication up to two weeks before entering the risk area. In intermediate risk areas, it might be sufficient to carry a treatment course with you as a stand-by medication. You will only start taking the medication if you experience any flu-like symptoms during your journey.

9. Follow your prescription carefully

If you need antimalarial medication, don’t forget to take it every day during your trip (or as advised) and do not stop taking it too early after your return. Depending on the medication, it could have to be continued for 4 weeks after leaving the malaria-affected area.

10. Be on the safe side

If you experience any flu-like symptoms within 1 year after your return, always inform any doctor treating you about the journey and the areas you have been to. Although infection with malaria usually causes symptoms within 1 or 2 weeks, it could take a lot longer (up to a year) for the disease to break out. Even if you have done everything right, there always remains a small risk of getting malaria.

Looking for malaria tablets before you take off? You can order your prescription online from ZAVA a prescription for malaria tablets if it’s right for you.

And finally: Enjoy your trip!

Malaria guidelines

Malaria guidelines are regularly updated, and countries receive new risk ratings for malaria. As a result, some of the malaria risk advice on our site may be out of date. Before starting your assessment for malaria treatment, please check up to date guidance on the malaria risk in the country you’re travelling to.

Neither the content on our website nor our online assessment for malaria treatment is intended to substitute a full travel consultation. You must discuss all precautions recommended for your trip with your GP or travel specialist – you may need vaccines too.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Charlotte Hammerton

Dr Charlotte Hammerton studied medicine at the University of Nottingham and since graduating has worked in hospitals in London, Kent, and Sussex.

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Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2019

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Once you know you’re travelling to country with a risk of malaria, you can get treatment before you go. ZAVA offers a range of options to consider, without needing to see a doctor face to face.

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