Malaria and Travel to Warmer Climates during the Winter Holidays

Now is the time when many families and individuals are planning their winter vacations. If you are thinking about an exotic tropical destination, you have probably already spent time mapping out the best beaches and restaurants. Maybe you have decided to visit family and old friends, or take your children to visit their grandparents and other relatives. Whatever your reason for travel, don’t forget – many areas with warm and humid climates have mosquitoes that can spread malaria even during the winter months. Malaria is a serious disease which can sometimes be deadly.

Visiting Family and Friends

Going “home” to visit friends and relatives? Even if you were born in a country where malaria occurs, you may still get malaria if you return as a visitor because most likely you are no longer immune. Your children can also get malaria since they did not grow up with malaria exposure.

To find out if you will be going to an area where malaria occurs, select the place you will travel from the CDC table about malaria information and prophylaxis by country.

Be aware of any Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Travel Warnings or State Department Advisoriesexternal icon against travel to certain countries or returning from certain countries.

The good news is that malaria is largely a preventable disease

See a doctor or other healthcare provider before travel.

If you are going to an area where malaria occurs, you can take certain medicines to help protect you from malaria during your trip. (Remember, it is still important to prevent mosquito bites even if you are taking medicine!) Which medicine you take will depend on your own health history and the place you are traveling.

Take your antimalarial drugs according to directions and without missing doses.

Prevent mosquito bites

Summer Travel Malaria

To prevent mosquito bites, apply insect repellent if out of doors. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria are most active between dusk and dawn:

  • Use a repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Products with 20%-50% DEET generally offer longer lasting protection.
  • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
  • Apply repellent to skin not covered by clothing.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.
  • Sleep under a treated bed net if the area where you sleep is not well screened or air-conditioned.

After You Return Home

If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in an area with malaria or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should get medical attention right away. The disease should be treated early in its course, before it becomes serious and life-threatening.

See a doctor right away if you return home with malaria symptoms. Tell your doctor’s office about your symptoms and where you traveled before your visit.

Page last reviewed: November 18, 2019