Measles is highly contagious and by no means harmless. The measles virus weakens the body’s natural defences, making the affected child susceptible to all kinds of infections. The most serious complications are pneumonia and encephalitis (measles encephalitis). Encephalitis can be fatal or cause severe neurological damage, such as mental development disturbances, or paralysis.
Measles is caused by the measles virus, which is transmitted in the air, i.e. during coughing and sneezing. Virtually everybody who is unprotected will be infected by this virus if they come into contact with a sick person. It takes 10-11 days from infection to the outbreak of the disease. Anyone who has been vaccinated against measles or who has had measles has lifelong immunity.
- The first signs are cold-like symptoms (approx. 3-5 days) such as a runny nose, sore throat, conjunctivitis with a moderate temperature (38 °C - 39 °C).
- A typical rash that starts behind the ears and then spreads all over the body within 2 days.
- The rash is usually associated with a high fever of 40 °C or more, an agonising cough and a headache.
- The spots are red, slightly raised and up to 5 mm in size.
- The cheeks appear particularly red.
Children are contagious from the 7th day following infection until 5 days after the onset of the rash.
What can mum/dad do?
- Children feel very ill with measles and should stay in bed.
- The accompanying conjunctivitis means that the child will feel better in dimly lit surroundings.
- The high fever makes it particularly important to drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
- If the fever is very high, make a vinegar compress or possibly give a fever-reducing suppository.
The fever normally lasts 4 to 5 days from the onset of the rash, but the child will still need to rest and will feel drained.
When should you see a doctor?
You should see a doctor if your child experiences any of the following complications:
- Infection of the middle ear (can lead to deafness!)
- Febrile convulsions
- Sinus infection
How to prevent measles?
The most effective way to prevent measles is to have the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella vaccine). Two doses of vaccine are required, and the child should have these before their second birthday.