Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Rubella Measles

Rubella is a contagious viral infection, also known as German measles or 3-day measles. Rubella is caused by the rubella virus. Rubella is not the same as the measles. In fact, rubella is far less severe than measles. It’s rarely serious in children, but it can cause complications if spread from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby.

Common Rubella Symptoms

One of the first rubella symptoms is a mild fever, around 99 or 100 degrees, for a day or two. Swollen lymph nodes behind the neck or under the ears usually accompany this fever. Headache, stuffy or runny nose and red eyes may be present as well, though these are more often seen in teens and young adults. Next, a rash will appear on the face and spread down the body. As the rash begins to spread, it will often fade from the face.

The rash itself may be similar in appearance to many other viral rashes. At first, you may notice pink or light red spots. These spots then come together to form larger, more uniform patches. The rash will normally last about three days and may cause itchiness.

German Measles - Rubella Measles - 3-Day Measles

While not serious for most, pregnant women should be concerned about exposure to rubella because it can lead to congenital rubella syndrome. If an unborn baby is infected with rubella, consequences can be severe. Possible problems associated with this syndrome include:

  • Deafness
  • Defects of the heart and eyes
  • Inhibited growth
  • Mental retardation.

The Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine

Children should be immunized against rubella. The vaccine used in the United States and in many other countries worldwide is the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (commonly called MMR). This vaccination is usually given twice, between 12 and 15 months and again at four to six years of age. Since it was developed, cases of rubella are rarely seen in regions where the vaccine is routinely given.

What Parents Need to Know about the Virus Rubella

Rubella is contagious and is spread from person to person when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. There is a wide time frame in which a person is contagious, from about one week prior to the onset of the rash until about a week after it disappears.

The incubation period is 14 to 23 days, with an average of 17 days. This means that it can take up to three weeks for your child to get rubella after being exposed to the virus. You can expect the fever to last for about three days, and it’s likely that lymph nodes will be swollen and tender for a week or so. Rubella will usually run its course in about a week for kids.

Rubella is usually not serious. Doctors don’t prescribe antibiotics for this disease, as they are ineffective against the rubella virus. Some doctors recommend giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. Call your doctor if your child develops a fever of 102 degrees or more, 100.4 degrees in infants younger than six months, or if your child seems to be getting sicker.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2008). Measles, mumps