Measles is a respiratory infection, causing a skin rash and flu-like symptoms. Measles is usually a children’s disease, but you can get it an any age. It is unpleasant and sometimes serious. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two die, according to MedlinePlus. If your child gets measles, he is likely to feel miserable for several days. In addition, measles can lead to pneumonia.
Six to 19 days after being exposed to the measles virus, symptoms show up. You or your child can have a fever, runny nose, dry cough, red eyes, sensitivity to light and white spots inside the mouth. You or your child will develop a red and blotchy rash that typically starts on the head and neck, spreading next to the entire body. Symptoms last for five or six days, at which time you or your child’s fever should subside, and the rash should begin fading. Some people get a cough that lasts a while longer.
Once a person contracts measles, no treatment can get rid of the infection. The best you can do at that point is to treat the symptoms. You or your child can take over-the-counter (OTC) medications for the fever, such as acetaminophen, naproxen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to your child because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal brain and liver disease. If you or your child develop an ear infection or pneumonia because of the measles, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic.
Measles is contagious from four days before the rash occurs to four days after the breakout. You or your child should not return to activities that put you or your child around other people. An infected person should rest, drink plenty of fluids, use a humidifier and keep the lights low or wear sunglasses.
About the Measles Vaccine
A vaccine exists to prevent measles, mumps and rubella, called the MMR vaccine. Children routinely get this vaccination at around 12 to 15 months and receive a booster shot at around 4 to 6 years of age. Vaccinations, however, are controversial. Some people believe that vaccines containing the preservative, thimerosal, cause autism. As of 2010, this link is not proven. Most public school districts require children to get vaccinations before they can enroll in school.
Rubella and Pregnancy
Women who have not had the MMR vaccine should not get it if they are pregnant. However, if you believe that you have not had the vaccine and you are of childbearing age, you should get a blood test to determine whether you have immunity to rubella, also called German measles. If not, you can get the vaccine if you are not pregnant. If you were to become infected with rubella during pregnancy, your baby could develop congenital rubella syndrome, which is a serious condition with a poor outcome.