What is malaria?
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite. Mosquitoes spread the parasite to people when they bite them.
Malaria symptoms usually appear within in 7 to 30 days but can take up to one year to develop. Symptoms may include high fevers and shaking chills, flu-like illness. Without treatment, malaria can cause severe illness and death.
Who is at risk?
The mosquitoes that spread malaria are found in Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific (See maps: Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere). Travelers going to these countries may get bit by mosquitoes and get infected.
Where are you going?
About 2,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States annually, mostly among returned travelers.
What can travelers do to prevent malaria?
Travelers can protect themselves from malaria by taking prescription medicine and preventing mosquito bites. There is no malaria vaccine.
Take Malaria Medicine
Check your destination to see if you should take prescription malaria medication. Depending on the medicine you take, you will need to start taking this medicine multiple days before your trip, as well as during and after your trip. Talk to your doctor about which medicine you should take.
Travelers should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites.
Use an EPA-registered insect repellent
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the active ingredients below. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. If also using sunscreen, always apply insect repellent after sunscreen.
- Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
Find the right insect repellent for you by using EPA's search tool.
- Insect Repellent Tips for Babies and Children
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
- When using insect repellent on your child:
- Always follow label instructions.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
- Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- If also using sunscreen, always apply insect repellent after sunscreen.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Treat clothing and gear with permethrin
- Use 0.5% permethrin to treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Permethrin is an insecticide that kills or repels insects like mosquitoes and sand flies.
- Permethrin-treated clothing provides protection after multiple washings.
- Read product information to find out how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions.
- Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.
- Watch the CDC video How to Use Permethrin.
Keep mosquitoes out of your hotel room or lodging
- Choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or window and door screens.
- Use a mosquito net if you are unable to stay in a place with air conditioning or window and door screens or if you are sleeping outside.
Sleep under a mosquito net
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outside or when screened rooms are not available. Mosquitoes can live indoors and bite during the day and night.
- Buy a mosquito net at your local outdoor store or online before traveling overseas.
- Choose a mosquito net that is compact, white, rectangular, with 156 holes per square inch, and long enough to tuck under the mattress.
- Permethrin-treated mosquito nets provide more protection than untreated nets.
- Permethrin is an insecticide that kills mosquitoes and other insects.
- To determine if you can wash a treated mosquito net, follow the label instructions.
If you are bitten by mosquitoes, avoid scratching the bites and apply over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream to relieve itching. See Mosquito Bite Symptoms and Treatment.
If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel.
If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.
- CDC Yellow Book: Malaria
- Malaria Hotline—770-488-7788 or 770-488-7100
- Malaria Risk Assessment for Travelers
- Choosing the Right Drug to Prevent Malaria