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Measles (Rubeola)

What are measles?

Measles is a disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms of measles include:

  • blotchy red rash starting on the face and spreading downward over the entire body in 3 days
  • 3 or 4 days of red eyes, cough, runny nose and fever before the rash begins
  • white specks on the lining of the mouth (Koplik's spots).

Your health care provider needs to see your child to confirm that he or she has measles.

If your child has measles, it means he or she was exposed to another child with measles 10 to 12 days earlier.

How long will it last?

Measles can be a miserable illness. The rash usually lasts 7 days. Your child will usually begin to feel a lot better by the fourth day of the rash. Ear and eye infections are common complications.

How can I take care of my child?

  1. Treatment
    • Fever: Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) in the usual dosage for your child's age.
    • Cough: Use corn syrup for children less than 1 year old, honey for children 1 to 4 years old, or cough drops for children over 4 years old. Also, use a humidifier. Medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DM) are cough-suppressants. In general, you should not give these medicines to children. Coughing helps protect the lungs by clearing out germs. If the coughing lasts for more than a couple of days, check with your child's health care provider.
    • Red eyes: Wipe your child's eyes frequently with a clean, wet cotton ball. The eyes are usually sensitive to bright light, so your child probably won't want to go outside for several days unless he wears sunglasses.
    • Rash: The rash requires no treatment.
  2. Contagiousness

    The disease is no longer contagious after the rash is gone. This usually takes 7 days.

  3. Measles exposure

    Any child or adult who has been exposed to your child and who has not had measles or the measles vaccine should call his health care provider. If given early, a measles vaccine is often protective.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • Breathing becomes labored AND no better after you clear the nose.
  • Your child becomes confused or difficult to awaken.
  • Your child develops a severe headache.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

Call within 24 hours if:

  • Your child develops an earache.
  • The eyes develop a yellow discharge.
  • Your child develops sinus pain or pressure.
  • The fever is still present on the fourth day of the rash.
  • Fever returns after the temperature has been normal for more than 24 hours.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-03
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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