How to Prevent Malaria

Dr Charlotte Hammerton

Medically reviewed by

Dr Charlotte Hammerton

Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2019

How To Prevent Malaria - The Top Ten Tips

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 should be applied after sunscreen

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

  • If you need them, make sure you take antimalarial tablets and you take them properly, every day while you’re then 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 for 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 an infection can vary considerably, even within a single country. Successful malaria prophylaxis depends on your knowledge - make sure you are in the 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 the success of your malaria prevention effort.

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 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 in order 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 last 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 repellant, 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 on a daily or a weekly basis to prevent malaria. 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 areas of intermediate risk, it might be sufficient to carry a treatment course with you as a stand-by medication. You would 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 you leave 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 an infection with malaria usually causes symptoms within 1 or two 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 and our London-based GMC-regulated doctors will dispatch your 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 are intended as a substitute for a full travel consultation. It is important you discuss all precautions recommended for your trip with your GP or travel specialist - for example you may need vaccines too.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Charlotte Hammerton Accreditations: BM, BS, BMedSci, MSc

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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