Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Measles

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory infection, caused by the measles virus. Though uncommon in the United States due to widespread use of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, measles is a serious threat worldwide.

Measles Symptoms

Signs of measles usually begin about seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Much like other viruses, measles symptoms begin with a fever, runny nose and cough with sore throat. Other symptoms include:

  • Blotchy rash
  • Malaise (general unwell feeling)
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Small, white spots with bluish-white centers inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots).

Following the initial symptoms, the Koplik’s spots in the mouth are the next symptom to appear. This symptom is then followed by a red or reddish-brown blotchy rash that covers the whole body. The measles rash usually starts on the forehead. It then works its way down over the face, neck and trunk of the body. Finally, the rash spreads down the limbs, to the hands and feet.

Symptoms of Measles - Rubeola - Koplik Spots

Measles Vaccine

Measles is extremely contagious and is spread through contact with infected droplets passed through coughing or sneezing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine has reduced the number of Measles cases in the United States by 99 percent or more. This is a great improvement, when you consider the millions of cases seen each year before the vaccine.

There is a combination vaccination that also covers varicella, the disease more commonly known as chicken pox (MMRV). Your doctor will determine which is best for your child. Children should receive two vaccinations, once at 12 to 15 months, and the other at 4 to 6 years of age.

Treatment of Measles

Because measles is a viral infection, antibiotics will not be prescribed, and there is no other specific medical treatment for measles. However, there are methods you can take for alleviating discomfort associated with symptoms, including the following:

  • Give ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain or fever. (Don’t give your child aspirin, as it’s been associated with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease in children.)
  • Keep the infected person isolated to avoid spreading the infection to others.
  • Make sure your child gets adequate rest.
  • Offer plenty of fluids.

If a child is suffering from severe symptoms or is hospitalized, he may be given doses of vitamin A, which is thought to ease symptoms. Keep an eye out for complications that could occur with measles, such as ear infections, pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Contact your physician with any concerns or questions you may have.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009). Overview of measles disease. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site:

Gavin, M. (2008). Infections: Measles. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from the Kids Health Web site:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Measles. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: