National Services Scotland logo


Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Toucan under malaria netMalaria

Note: Country specific malaria information and malaria maps are available via Destinations.


Malaria is widespread in many tropical and subtropical countries and is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. You cannot be vaccinated against malaria, but you can protect yourself in three ways.

Avoidance of Bites

Mosquitoes cause much inconvenience because of local reactions to the bites themselves and from the infections they transmit. Mosquitoes spread malaria, yellow fever, dengue and Japanese encephalitis.

Mosquitoes bite at any time of day but most bites occur in the evening.

Precautions to Take

  1. Avoid mosquito bites, especially after sunset. If you are out at night wear long-sleeved clothing and long trousers.
  2. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spray an insecticide or repellent on them. Insect repellents should also be used on exposed skin.
  3. Spraying insecticides in the room, burning pyrethroid coils and heating insecticide impregnated tablets all help to control mosquitoes.
  4. If sleeping in an unscreened room, or out of doors, a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide is a sensible precaution. Portable, lightweight nets are available.
  5. Garlic, Vitamin B and ultrasound devices do not prevent bites.

Taking Antimalarial Tablets

  1. Start before travel as guided by your travel health advisor (with some tablets you should start three weeks before).
  2. Take the tablets absolutely regularly, preferably with or after a meal.
  3. It is extremely important to continue to take them for four weeks after you have returned, to cover the incubation period of the disease. Atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone®) requires only 7 days post-travel).

  Drugs Most Commonly Used for Malaria Prevention

Travellers must always, through discussion with their doctor or pharmacist, make sure they use a drug which they can tolerate (only the more common side effects are given here) and one which is appropriate for their destination(s). No drug is 100% effective.

In Britain, chloroquine and proguanil can be purchased from local pharmacies or chemists. All other drugs require a doctor's prescription.

Further information on the commonly used drugs:

Prompt Treatment

Following these guidelines faithfully might not guarantee complete protection. If you get a fever between one week after first exposure and up to one year after your return, you should seek medical attention and tell the doctor that you have been in a malarious area.

back to top