Measles

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a viral illness. It's characterized by a distinct rash and a fever. Measles is very contagious. It is usually spread through direct contact with droplets from coughs or sneezes from a person with measles. Although not as common, it can be spread by droplets in the air. The symptoms of measles happen about 8 to 12 days after coming in contact with a person with the virus.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles usually begin with cold like symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever

  • Runny nose

  • Inflammation and redness of covering of the eye (conjunctivitis)

  • Cough

  • Tiny white spots inside the mouth (Koplik spots)

Within another few days, a red rash appears. It usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body. Once the rash appears, the fever may get much higher. This rash fades after 4 to 7 days as symptoms subside.

The symptoms of measles may look like other medical conditions. Always see your child's healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What is the treatment for measles?

Your child's healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old your child is

  • His or her overall health and past health

  • How sick he or she is

  • How well your child can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • How long the condition is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Individuals who are deficient in Vitamin A may benefit from extra doses of this vitamin. Vitamin A does not treat measles by itself, but prevents the bad outcomes associated with Vitamin A deficiency. It lessens the chance of serious complications and death. Since most people do not know if they are Vitamin A defficient or not, all patients with measles are routinely given extra Vitamin A.Other treatment includes:

  • Staying away from other people

  • Medicine for fever

  • Antibiotic medicine for bacterial infections that may develop. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections like measles, but only complications like bacterial infection should it develop. 

What are the complications of measles?

Most people recover with no lasting effects. But measles can lead to serious complications or even death. Complications of measles include the following:

  • Middle ear infection

  • Infection of the lungs (pneumonia)

  • Infection of the upper airway with trouble breathing and cough (croup)

  • Diarrhea

  • Infection of the brain (encephalitis)

How can measles be prevented?

The measles vaccine is part of  the routine immunizations recommended for children. Children should be vaccinated for measles with 2 doses:

  • First dose at 12 to 15 months of age

  • Second dose at 4 to 6 years of age

For people who have not been vaccinated, vaccination up to 3 days after exposure to measles may prevent the disease.

People who have had measles are immune for life. But if you work in education or healthcare, or are planning international travel, you may want to be vaccinated to boost your immunity.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if you suspect measles. Get emergency care if your child has:

  • A fever higher than 105°F (40.5°C)

  • Trouble breathing

  • A severe headache

  • Confusion or clumsiness