Definition

What is measles?

Measles, or rubeola, is a viral infection of the respiratory system. Measles is a very contagious disease that can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. An infected person can release the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze.

How common is measles?

The measles virus can live on surfaces for several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces, anyone within close proximity can become infected.

Drinking from an infected person’s glass, or sharing eating utensils with an infected person, increases your risk of infection.

Measles is a leading cause of death in children. Of the 114,900 global deaths related to measles in 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that most of the victims were under the age of 5.

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of measles?

Symptoms of measles generally appear within 14 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Red eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • White spots inside the mouth

A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to seven days and generally appears within the first three to five days of exposure to the virus.

A measles rash, which appears as red, itchy bumps, commonly develops on the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the body.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms do not improve, or they get worse
  • The fever rises to above 38 degrees Centigrade
  • Other symptoms resolve, but the fever persists

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes measles?

Measles is caused by infection with the rubeola virus. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected child or adult.

Infection spreads through:

  • Physical contact with an infected person
  • Being near infected people if they cough or sneeze
  • Touching a surface that has infected droplets of mucus and then putting fingers into the mouth, or rubbing the nose or eyes

The virus remains active on an object for 2 hours.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for measles?

Measles primarily occurs in unvaccinated children. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for fear that vaccines will have adverse effects on their children. Most children and adults who receive a measles vaccine do not experience side effects.

A vitamin A deficiency is also a risk factor for measles. Children with too little vitamin A in their diets have a higher risk of catching the virus.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is measles diagnosed?

Your doctor can confirm measles by examining your skin rash and checking for symptoms that are characteristic of the disease, such as white spots in the mouth, fever, cough, and sore throat.

If they are unable to confirm a diagnosis based on observation, your doctor may order a blood test to check for the measles virus.

How is measles treated?

There is no prescription medication to treat measles. The virus and symptoms typically disappear within two to three weeks. However, your doctor may recommend:

  • Acetaminophen to relieve fever and muscle aches
  • Rest to help boost your immune system
  • Plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses of water a day)
  • Humidifier to ease a cough and sore throat
  • Vitamin A supplements

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage measles?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with measles:

  • People who have already had measles are normally immune and they are unlikely to get it again.
  • People who are not immune should consider the measles vaccine.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 13, 2017 | Last Modified: October 13, 2017

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