Malaria - Symptoms

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What are malaria symptoms and signs?

Malaria has a wide spectrum of symptoms. After the bite by the infected mosquito occurs, it can take between seven and 30 days before symptoms start.

Malaria is classified as uncomplicated or complicated (severe).

Uncomplicated malaria

The most common symptoms are

  • fever and chills,
  • headaches,
  • nausea and vomiting,
  • general weakness and body aches.

The classic description of a malaria attack (which is rarely observed), would be a six- to 12-hour period of cold and shivering alternating with fever and headaches and then a stage of sweating and tiredness (sometimes divided into the cold and hot stage).

As these symptoms are very nonspecific, it is important to evaluate if the patient has risk factors for malaria (usual travel in endemic areas).

Complicated or severe malaria

This occurs when different body systems are affected by malaria.

  • Severe anemia (due to destruction of red blood cells)
  • Kidney failure
  • Cerebral malaria -- seizures, unconsciousness, abnormal behavior, or confusion
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Low blood sugar (in pregnant women after treatment with quinine)
Return to Malaria

See what others are saying

Comment from: Bel-Jozzie SA, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 18

Tomorrow I will get to find out if I contracted malaria! I was in Mozambique years ago not hot, pleasant time to go, but first evening I got bitten! I sprayed my bitten area and rest of the body with "Peaceful Sleep" repellant aerosol. It was the third trip to this part of Mozambique. A week later, not even I got fever blisters on my top lip (almost occupied the whole upper lip). Thinking my immune system is down, just used fever blister cream and it took basically two weeks to recover. Whilst recovering I started getting nauseous. Funny sensation in my stomach did not do well with smells or car trips. Last week Thursday I got up had 1/3 of the cup of coffee, then took my BP medication and I went back to bed, as body was saw (like fever type) chest was sore, (could not even smoke) as I got in I had to get up to go and vomit. There after experienced weird body pains and I was extremely cold, shivers and lower back pains! I could not eat, I just wanted tea, but slept the entire day and night. The next day I thought I had the energy to go back to work, had a bath, but forget it went back into bed. Over the weekend I felt slightly better but the nausea was still there. It is just a weird sensation! You feel you are not right! I feel my eyes are getting blurry and it feels like there is sand in them! I wake up sweaty in the mornings even though it's freezing cold here. Today decided to go to doctor and I described the symptoms to the doc and he asked if I recently visited malaria stricken area! He also noted I had fever blisters- (slight red traces on upper lip). He then told me it sounds like I got malaria! I will get my blood results tomorrow and hope that its still in early stages as I am a sufferer of PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) and reading other comments has scared the living daylight out of me. I will comment back with feed back if it was positive or negative.

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Comment from: Glenn, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: July 16

I am a Survivor of malaria strain P.falciparum. First signs were typical cold and flu for a day then a good run for 4 days then a cyclic pattern of recurring symptoms over the next few days in 24hr cycles. Each recurrence was worse than the previous. The lead-in took about 7 to 8days. The symptoms eventually did not give any further relief days and the cycles melded into bad and worse days. Starting now at day 1, the symptoms worsened to lethargy, lack of concentration and shortness of breath along with normal flu aches and pains. A visit to the local medical centre for suspect flu on day 1, routine malaria tests were negative. I am feeling slightly better on day 2, but certainly not functional. I am back to the medical centre on day 3 and doctor was convinced by looking at me, that I had a strain of malaria. More routine tests returned another negative result so back to the lounge room floor. The next day now day 4, I could lay dead still for 4 to 6 hours and only move to go to the toilet. Returning to the floor, my heart rate was at about 160bpm and the energy exerted required a good 4 hour rest again. On day 5 and the third visit to the medical centre, the blood test came back positive and the strain was identified. The doctor sincerely concerned with the strain identified and the duration of my illness. I was medivac'd to Australia. Further medication was given on arrival. Full Recovery took 9 months, but damage was done. For 2 to 3 months I remained on the lounge room floor. During the 3rd and 4th month, I had to train my muscles to walk again at the local shopping centre. By the end of the 5th month I could walk one full length of a shopping centre. A further 4 months passed with daily walks before I was back to normal. By the 12th month I was struck by depression and then spent 3 months working out of it, but that's another story.

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