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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 occur 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 health care provider for a diagnosis.

What is the treatment for measles?

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

  • How old your child is

  • His or her overall health and health history

  • How sick he or she is

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

  • How long the condition is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Vitamin A is used to treat measles in children. It lessens the chance of serious complications and death. Other treatment includes:

  • Staying away from other people

  • Medicine for fever

  • Antibiotic medication for bacterial infections that 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 health care, or are planning international travel, you may want to be vaccinated to boost your immunity.

When to call the health care provider

Call your child's health care 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


Measles - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 2014-06-27T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2015-03-10T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-07-13T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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