Symptoms of Malaria

Key points

  • Malaria symptoms range from very mild to severe disease and even death.
  • Travelers with symptoms of malaria should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible, even if still traveling.
  • Some people are at higher risk of having serious malaria-related problems if they get sick.
  • Malaria is a curable disease if diagnosed and treated quickly and correctly.
malaria bed nets


Most people begin to feel ill as early as one week after infection or as late as a year or more.

Malaria symptoms can include

  • Fever and flu-like illness
  • Chills
  • Headache, muscle aches, and tiredness
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

See a healthcare provider if you have any these symptoms.


Malaria symptoms may become more severe.

  • Anemia (low red blood cells) and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes).
  • If not treated right away, the infection can become serious. It may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.

Incubation Period

The type of mosquito that carries the malaria parasite is an Anopheles mosquito. When an infective Anopheles mosquito bites you and passes on the malaria parasite, there is a period of time before the first symptoms show. This time between mosquito bite and first sign of symptoms is called the "incubation period."

The incubation period in most cases of malaria ranges from 7 – 30 days. Different species of parasites that cause malaria in humans can cause shorter or longer incubation periods.

In addition, some malaria parasite species can remain dormant (inactive) in the liver for months or years after the initial infection. Later, after returning from an area with malaria, these parasites can then leave the liver and infect red blood cells and cause another episode of illness. Proper diagnosis and treatment can prevent malaria illness caused by these dormant parasites.

Keep reading: Malaria incubation period