Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India
First Created: 01/08/2001  Last Updated: 08/01/2015

Patient Education

What is measles?

Measles is a common viral infection caused by the measles virus. It is characterized by symptoms of cold and fever followed by the appearance of a classical rash.

How does measles spread?

Measles usually is seen in children below 3 years of age. It is unusual before 6 months of age due to protection provided by the mother’s antibodies present in the baby which it acquires when in the womb. After 6 months of age, these antibodies start waning and a child becomes susceptible to measles.

Measles spreads through airborne droplets by sneezing and coughing from an infected patient and also on direct contact with the rash.

Is measles contagious?

Measles is a highly infectious disease. An infected patient can transmit the virus 4 days before and 5 days after the appearance of the rash.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The patient initially has fever, cold, cough, and malaise that lasts for 2-4 days. The rash appears on the 4th to the 6th day of fever and is reddish which starts from behind the ears, involves the face and spreads down to the rest of the body and the limbs in the next 3 to 4 days. The rash fades in the next 3 to 4 days in the same manner that it appeared.

What are the complications of measles?

Measles usually does not cause any complications. However, it suppresses immunity and makes the child prone to getting pneumonia, ear infection, bacterial infections. Rarely a child with measles may get brain involvement (encephalitis) or there may be ulcer formation in the eye.

What is the treatment for measles?

There is no cure for measles. Treatment is with fever-reducing agents (antipyretics) and antihistamines to control cold.

A child with measles needs to be isolated until the time he is infected. Calamine may be applied over the rash to control the itching. All children should receive a high dose of vitamin A.

How is measles prevented?

Measles can be prevented by immunization with the measles vaccine or MMR vaccine. As per IAP recommendations, the measles vaccine needs to be given at 9 months of age and the MMR vaccine at 15 to 18 months of age to boost immunity followed by a second booster at 5 years of age.

Persons who are in close contact with a patient with measles and have never received the measles or MMR vaccine should be given measles immunoglobulin immediately to give short-term immunity.

Measles Measles 2015-08-01
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