/SiteAssets/Images/FMOLHSBlankBanner.png

Health Information

Measles
Bookmarks

Measles

Print-Friendly  

Rubeola

Measles is a very contagious (easily spread) illness caused by a virus.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Causes

    Measles is spread by contact with droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat of an infected person. Sneezing and coughing can put contaminated droplets into the air.

    Persons who had measles or who have been vaccinated against measles are immune to the disease. Before widespread vaccination, measles was so common during childhood that most people became sick with the disease by age 20. The number of measles cases dropped over the last several decades to almost none in the U.S. and Canada. But rates have started to rise again recently.

    Some parents do not let their children get vaccinated because of unfounded fears that the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, can cause autism. Large studies of thousands of children have found no connection between this vaccine and autism. Not vaccinating children can lead to outbreaks of a measles, mumps, and rubella. These are all serious diseases.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually begin 8 to 12 days after you are exposed to the virus. This is called the incubation period.

    Rash is often the main symptom. The rash:

    • Usually appears 3 to 5 days after the first signs of being sick
    • May last 4 to 7 days
    • Usually starts on the head and spreads to other areas, moving down the body
    • May appear as flat, discolored areas (macules) and solid, red, raised areas (papules) that later join together
    • Itches

    Other symptoms may include:

    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Light sensitivity (photophobia)
    • Muscle pain
    • Redness and irritation of the eyes (conjunctivitis)
    • Runny nose
    • Sore throat
    • Tiny white spots inside the mouth (Koplik's spots)
  • Exams and Tests

    • Measles serology
    • Viral culture (rarely done)
  • Treatment

    There is no specific treatment for the measles.

    The following may relieve symptoms:

    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    • Bed rest
    • Humidified air

    Some children may need vitamin A supplements, which reduce the risk of death and complications in children who do not get enough vitamin A.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)

    Those who do not have complications such as pneumonia do very well.

  • Possible Complications

    Complications of measles infection may include:

    • Bronchitis
    • Encephalitis
    • Ear infection (otitis media)
    • Pneumonia
  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms of measles.

  • Prevention

    Getting vaccinated is a very effective way to prevent measles. People who are not immunized, or who have not received the full immunization are at high risk of catching the disease.

    Taking serum immune globulin within 6 days after being exposed to the virus can reduce the risk of developing measles or make the disease less severe.

Related Information

  FeverCoughConjunctivitisRashesImmune responseEar infection - ac...Bronchitis - acute...Pneumonia - adults...Encephalitis     Ear infectionsPneumoniaViral encephalitis...

References

Gershon AA. Measles virus (rubeola). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Mandell GL, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2014:chap 162.

Mason WH. Measles. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 238.

BACK TO TOP 

Review Date: 8/30/2014  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

 
A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and Google Chrome browser.