Measles – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

Measles is a viral illness that is highly contagious, and which can sometimes result in serious complications. Vaccinations have helped make measles pretty uncommon in the UK, nowadays.

If you haven’t been vaccinated, or haven’t had measles before, you may be at risk. Anyone can get them, but measles is usually more prevalent in children.

It usually takes about 7-10 days for measles to clear up.

How Is Measles Spread?

Something as simple as a sneeze or a cough can spread measles from an infected person to one who is not. When the person who is not infected breathes in the virus, they then end up with measles.

Symptoms of Measles

It usually takes about 10 days from the moment of infection for symptoms to show, and they include:

  • Cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing, cough, and a runny nose
  • Itchy red eyes that have a light sensitivity
  • A fever that could run as high as 40C (104F)
  • Small spots on the inside of the cheeks that are grey in appearance

A couple of days after those symptoms appear, you might notice a reddish brown blotchy rash that usually starts on the neck or upper head.

Is Measles Contagious?

Very much so! Before the days of vaccinations, the illness would tear through schools like wild fire. The good news is that if you have had measles once, you develop an automatic immunity that prevents you from getting them again.

How Is Measles Treated?

Since measles is a virus, it does not have a specific treatment. Plenty of rest and drinking fluids (no alcohol) will help move things along. There are a number of over the counter treatments that can help, so be sure to ask your doctor for some suggestions.

Do I Need to See a Doctor?

It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you have measles. If your child has the illness, call ahead first, as the doctor may come out to see you.
If any of the following symptoms occur after the initial diagnosis, you may want to pay another visit to the doctor:

  • A painful cough
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Impaired hearing
  • Ear pain

What Are the Effects of Measles?

There are a number of complications that can arise as a result of this illness, and they include ear infections and pneumonia. 1 in 1000 children can even develop encephalitis or meningitis, which can cause deafness, and even death in rare cases.

How Can I Prevent Getting Measles?

The most effective form of prevention is to have the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Children get this in 2 doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. Children aged 13 months get the first dose, and then receive the second before they start school.

Children and adults that have not previously been fully vaccinated can do so at any age.

If you would sooner not submit to the MMR vaccine, you can go with human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) treatment, which should be done if you are immediate risk of measles.

Photo Credit: Sue Clark Flickr CC