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(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)
 

Measles

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a viral illness. It has 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 health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What is the treatment for measles?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

A child who doesn't have enough vitamin A may need to take extra doses of this vitamin. Vitamin A does not treat measles by itself, but it prevents the bad outcomes tied to vitamin A deficiency. It lessens the chance of serious complications and death. Since most people don't know if they are lacking in vitamin A, your child's healthcare provider will probably give your child extra vitamin A if he or she has measles. Other treatment includes:

  • Staying away from other people

  • Medicine for fever

  • Antibiotic medicine for bacterial infections that may develop. Antibiotics don't treat viral infections like measles. But they can treat a complication such as a bacterial infection. 

What are the complications of measles?

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

  • 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 vaccines 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, getting the vaccine 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 health care, 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 

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