Symptoms of Malaria

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Malarial symptoms will usually develop between 7-15 days after you have been infected. This is the incubation period for most of the parasites, but sometimes you may not experience any symptoms for months after you have been bitten. It can even be a year before you realise that you have malaria. The symptoms of malaria are not specific to the disease and appear flu-like, making diagnosis quite difficult as there is no specific symptom that indicates malaria.

You usually experience flu-like symptoms when you have malaria so you may have chills, sweating, fever and headaches. You will generally feel unwell and you may also experience muscle pains as well as diarrhoea and coughing. Generally, you experience a pattern of fevers due to the regular bursting of red blood cells.

In certain types of malaria, you will experience a 4-8 hour fever cycle. For the first 1-2 hours, you have shivering and chills, which is then followed by a high fever where you will sweat copiously. This usually lasts anywhere between 2-6 hours. After this time, your body temperature will drop back to normal or fall lower than normal. The onset of a fever is triggered by the release of the parasites into your blood plasma. Generally, your body will follow this pattern but with some types of malaria, you have small fevers throughout the day.

Other symptoms that you may experience are nausea, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and jaundice. Malaria can make you feel very ill and if you become infected with Plasmodium falciparum, the disease becomes very severe, very quickly. This can lead to serious illnesses such as organ failure, severe anaemia, seizures and organ failure.

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