Measles Causes, Complications, Prevention And Treatment


A virus is to blame for the pediatric illness known as measles. Vaccines can now nearly always prevent measles, which was once extremely prevalent.

Measles, also known as rubeola, is contagious, dangerous, and occasionally deadly in young children. Despite the fact that measles mortality rates have been dropping internationally as more children receive the vaccination, the disease still takes the lives of more than 200,000 people year, mostly children.

Measles is an infection that spreads rapidly and may be quite problematic for certain individuals. The easiest method to avoid it is to get an MMR immunization.


Measles is a disease that spreads quickly. This implies that spreading it to others is quite simple. Measles is brought on by a virus that can be found in a child or adult's nose and throat. Measles-transmitting droplets are released into the air when a person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, where they might be inhaled by others. The infectious droplets could stay in the air for almost an hour.

Furthermore, the infectious droplets might land on a surface, where they could persist and spread for several hours. You can catch measles by wiping your eyes, putting your fingers in your mouth, or touching your nose after coming in contact with a contaminated surface.

From around four days after the rash emerges, measles is the most infectious. Approximately 90% of individuals who have never had measles or who have not received the measles vaccine will get the disease when exposed to a carrier of the virus.

How to check if you have Measles?

If you believe you or your child may have been exposed to the measles or if you or your child has a rash that resembles the measles, contact your healthcare practitioner right once.

Risk Factors

Measles risk factors include:

Being immunized. You are far more prone to contract the disease if you have not had the measles vaccine.

Foreign travel. You have a larger risk of contracting measles if you visit nations where the disease is more prevalent.

Lacking vitamin A. You have a higher risk of developing more serious measles symptoms and consequences if your diet is deficient in vitamin A.


Measles signs and symptoms appear 10 to 14 days after being exposed to the virus. Measles symptoms and signs include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Clogged nose
  • Unwell throat
  • Irritated eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Also known as Koplik's spots, these tiny white dots with bluish-white centres on a red backdrop can be discovered within the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek.
  • A rash on the skin that consists of big, flat patches that frequently merge together
  • The infection progresses over the course of two to three weeks.

Incubation and infection. The measles virus spreads in the body over the first 10 to 14 days following infection. There are no signs or symptoms of measles at this time.

Generalized symptoms and signs. Usually, measles starts with a mild to severe fever and is frequently accompanied by a dry cough, runny nose, itchy eyes (conjunctivitis), and a painful throat. This comparatively minor ailment might last two to three days.

Rash and acute sickness. Little red dots, some of which are slightly elevated, make up the rash. The skin appears blotchy red due to clusters of spots and pimples. The first to break out is the face.

The rash begins to spread down the arms, chest, and back over the following several days before moving on to the thighs, lower legs, and feet. At the same time, the fever intensifies, frequently reaching 104 to 105.8 F. (40 to 41 C).

Recovery. A measles rash typically lasts seven days. The rash progressively disappears, first on the face and ending on the body.

feet and thighs. When the other symptoms of the illness have passed, the cough and darkening or peeling of the skin where the rash originated may persist for around 10 days.

For approximately eight days, beginning four days before the rash emerges and ending after the rash has been present for four days, a person with measles can transmit the virus to others.


It is common to deliver the MMR vaccine, which guards against measles, mumps, and rubella. This immunization may also contain the MMRV shot, which guards against varicella. Doctors recommend that children take the MMR vaccine twice, first between the ages of 4 and 6 years and again between the ages of 12 and 15 months, prior to entering school.

The two doses of the MMR vaccination are 97% effective in preventing measles and providing lifetime immunity. The symptoms are often minor in the tiny percentage of persons who contract measles after receiving a vaccination.

Be mindful of:

Infants born to mothers who have received the vaccination or who are immune due to having had the disease are often protected from measles for around 6 months after delivery. The vaccination can be administered as early as 6 months of age if a child needs measles protection before the age of 12 months, such as for international travel. But, young children who receive vaccinations still need to receive them later at the recommended ages.

A child can avoid a delay in protection from measles, mumps, and rubella by receiving the MMR vaccination as part of the recommended immunization series, and with less gunfire. The combination vaccine is just as dependable and safe as the vaccinations given separately. The majority of side effects are minor and may include fever and a painful arm where the injection was administered.

Adult vaccination for measles

Vaccination against measles may be necessary if you are an adult without documentation of immunity and:

  • Those who attend college, travel abroad, or work in a hospital have an increased risk of catching measles.

Evidence of immunity, which safeguards against contracting the disease, consists of the following:

  • Written proof of the necessary measles vaccines
  • Laboratory tests that demonstrate immunity
  • Laboratory tests that reveal you previously had the measles

See your doctor if you are unsure if you need the measles vaccine.

Take these steps to safeguard family members and others who lack immunity if someone in your home has measles:

Isolate. Those with measles should stay at home and refrain from going back to activities where they interact with other people during this period since measles is very infectious from around four days before to four days after the rash emerges.

Siblings, for example, who are not immunized, should likewise avoid the area.

Vaccinate. Be sure to acquire the measles vaccination as soon as possible for anyone who is at risk of contracting the disease but has not received it completely. Anybody born in 1957 or after without documentation of immunity, as well as newborns older than six months, fall under this category

The following reasons make receiving the measles vaccination crucial:

  • Enhancing and maintaining general immunity. Herd immunity is the term for this effect.
  • Halting the spread of measles via consistent vaccination


After measles has been contracted, there is no particular therapy available. Together with the management or prevention of issues, the treatment includes rest and other comfort measures.

After being exposed to the virus, there are several steps that may be taken to safeguard those who do not already have immunity to measles.

After-exposure immunization. After 72 hours following contact with the measles virus, those lacking measles immunity, including babies, may get the measles vaccination to offer protection. If measles still manifests, it often has less severe symptoms and does not stay as long.

Serum immunoglobulin. Immune serum globulin injections may be administered to those exposed to the virus who are pregnant, nursing, or have weaker immune systems. When delivered inside

These antibodies can either prevent measles or lessen symptoms after six days of viral contact.


Following are some possible measles infection treatments:

Reducers of fever. You can take over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Children's Motrin, others), or naproxen sodium (Aleve) to help lower the fever that comes with measles if it is making you or your child uncomfortable. Pay close attention to the labels, or enquire with your doctor or chemist about the right dosage.

When administering aspirin to teens, exercise care. Although aspirin is safe to use in children above the age of three, it should never be administered to children or teens who are experiencing the symptoms of chickenpox or the flu. This is due to aspirin's connection to these kids, there is an uncommon but possibly fatal illness called Reye's syndrome.

Antibiotics. Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic if you or your child gets a bacterial illness during the measles, such as pneumonia or an ear infection.

A vitamin. A more severe case of measles is more likely to affect children with low vitamin A levels. Vitamin A supplementation may decrease the severity of a measles infection in children. For children older than a year, it is often administered in a massive dosage of 200,000 international units (IU). Younger children may get smaller dosages.

Complications of Measles

Measles complications can include:

Vomiting and diarrhoea. Vomiting and diarrhoea may cause the body to lose too much water (dehydration).

Otitis media. A bacterial ear infection is one of measles' most frequent side effects.

Croup, laryngitis, or bronchitis. The airways may become inflamed and irritated as a result of measles (croup). Moreover, it may cause inflammation of the inner walls that surround the lungs' primary airways (bronchitis). The voice box may become inflamed as a result of measles (laryngitis).

Pneumonia. Measles frequently results in lung infections (pneumonia). Individuals with compromised immune systems are more likely to acquire a particularly serious form of pneumonia, which occasionally can be fatal.

Encephalitis. One in a thousand measles sufferers may experience complications known as encephalitis. Encephalitis is an inflammation and swelling of the brain. Those with compromised immune systems may be more vulnerable to the condition's dangers. After measles, encephalitis may manifest straight away or months later. A lasting brain injury from encephalitis is possible.

Maternity issues. Pregnant women should take extra precautions to prevent getting measles since it can result in preterm delivery, low birth weight, and fetal mortality.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 30, 2023

Next review due: Mar 30, 2025

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