Measles is a highly infectious illness caused by a virus. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of people with this infection. Physical contact, coughing and sneezing can spread the infection. In addition, infected droplets of mucus can remain active and contagious for around two hours. This means that the virus can live outside the body – for example, on surfaces and door handles so best is when you or your siblings has this virus it is best to keep them indoors and keep everything disinfected and clean.
Once you are infected with the virus, the virus multiples in the back of your throat and in your lungs. It then spreads throughout your body.
The following are the most common symptoms of measles:
- A high temperature, sore eyes (conjunctivitis), and a runny nose usually occur first.
- Small white spots usually develop inside the mouth a day or so later. These can persist for several days.
- A harsh dry cough is usual.
- Going off food, tiredness, and aches and pains are usual.
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting is common.
- A red blotchy rash normally develops about 3-4 days after the first symptoms. It usually starts on the head and neck, and spreads down the body. It takes 2-3 days to cover most of the body. The rash often turns a brownish colour and gradually fades over a few days.
- Children are usually quite unwell and miserable for 3-5 days. After this, the fever tends to ease, and then the rash fades. The other symptoms gradually ease and go.
Most children are better within 7-10 days. An irritating cough may persist for several days after other symptoms have gone. The immune system makes antibodies during the infection. These fight off the virus and then provide lifelong immunity. It is therefore rare to have more than one bout of measles.
People mistake rashes caused by other viruses for measles. Measles is not just a mild red rash that soon goes. The measles virus causes an unpleasant, and sometimes serious, illness. The rash is just one part of this illness.
Treatments for measles:
There is no specific medicine that kills the measles virus. Treatment aims to ease symptoms until the body’s immune system clears the infection. For most cases, rest and simple measures to reduce a fever are all that are needed for a full recovery. Symptoms will usually disappear within 7-10 days.
The following measures are often useful:
- Children should drink as much as possible to prevent dehydration. Ice lollies are a useful way of giving extra fluid and keeping cool.
- Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken to ease fever and aches and pains. You should keep the child cool (but not cold).
- Antibiotics do not kill the measles virus and so are not normally given. They may be prescribed if a complication develops, such as a secondary bacterial ear infection or secondary bacterial pneumonia.