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Flying with Malaria

Flying with Malaria

Read our guide for those travelling on a plane with malaria. This guide is packed with FAQs, and tips to prepare before a flight and prevent getting malaria when flying.


What is Malaria?

Malaria is an alarming tropical illness spread by mosquitoes. If it doesn't get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, it can cause death. A person can become infected by a single mosquito bite.

Each year, millions of US travellers fly to countries where malaria is prevalent and around 1,700 (1,600 in the UK) cases of malaria are diagnosed, mostly in returned travellers.

Malaria is found in more than 100 countries, especially in large areas in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, parts of the Middle East and some Pacific Islands. Those who travel to these regions are at the greatest risk of getting malaria and dying from the infection.


What are the signs of malaria?

It's important to note the symptoms of malaria particularly if you're planning on travelling to areas where there's a high risk of the disease. Some of these symptoms usually appear between 7 and 18 days after becoming infected, however, in some instances, the signs may not show for up to a year, or even longer. Signs of malaria include:

  • a high temperature of 38C or more
  • feeling hot and shivery
  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • muscle pains
  • diarrhoea

How to prevent malaria when travelling

Mosquito bite avoidance is a must and reducing the number of bites you receive reduces the chance of an infection. Ensure to take practical steps to avoid mosquito bites:

Times when you can catch malaria

Mosquitoes typically spread malaria after sunset and it's important not to get mixed up with day-biting mosquitoes which spread other diseases, bite avoidance should therefore be practised at all times.

Fully clothe your body

It is recommended that you wear clothing that will protect most of your skin. Wearing long clothing and long trousers can help prevent bites. 

Bring enough malaria pills and anti-repellent with you

It's important to stay clean as most mosquitos give bites on the leg area, this is due to them being attracted to the smell of the bacteria on your feet. Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth, smells emitted by your skin, and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth.

Use insect-repellent creams or sprays on your skin and disinfect any mosquito bites as soon as possible without having the urge to scratch. Mosquito pills may be taken before entering the country and some tablets need to be taken three weeks before you travel. 

Prepare your room

Spraying insecticides in the room and burning pyrethroid coils helps to control mosquitoes. If you're planning on sleeping in an unscreened room, or outside, a mosquito net with insecticide is a good precaution.

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Flying with malaria FAQs

Can I fly if I have malaria?

It's not advised to fly to the 100 countries that have malaria as you're put at a greater risk of catching an infection that can be fatal. However, if you need to travel ensure to take the prevention of getting malaria we've listed above.

Do I need to see a doctor if I have malaria?

Absolutely, ensure to get immediate medical advice if you develop the symptoms of malaria, as long as up to a year after you return from travelling. Speak to your doctor if you're planning to visit an area where there's a malaria risk. It may be recommended that you take antimalarial tablets to prevent infection.

Can malaria kill you?

Yes, malaria is a worldwide illness and has caused the death of 435,000 in 2017. It's important to follow the above steps in so that you don't catch malaria.