A highly contagious viral illness, Measles is somewhat rare in the UK due to the effectiveness of the MMR vaccination. The infection is most common amongst children aged 1-4 years. As the virus lives in the droplets that are emitted from the nose and mouth, this makes catching measles extremely easy as it can be spread merely by sneezing or coughing.
Symptoms of Measles
At around 10 days after initial infection of the measles virus, symptoms will appear. They typically last around 14 days. The measles rash typically appears a few days after. Initial symptoms of measles include:
- Cold-like symptoms which may include a runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing
- General aches and pains
- Lack of appetite
- Dry cough
- Red eyes that may be sensitive to light
- A mild to severe temperature, which may fall but then rise once the rash appears
- Tiny greyish-white spots in mouth and throat
- Fatigue, irritability and a lack of energy
- Red-brown spotty rash that reveals itself two to four days after symptoms begin and lasts for up to eight days.
The spots start behind the ears, spread around the head and neck, then spread to the legs and the rest of the body. Severity of rash can be different for every individual. Initially the spots are small but soon get bigger and may even join together.
Treatment of Measles
With no specific treatment for Measles, Parents and carers may feel a little redundant when caring for a small child suffering from Measles. Rest and treat symptoms until the immune system fights the virus. Symptoms typically disappear in 7-10 days. If this is not the case however, seek medical advice. In the meantime, consider these tips to help keep sufferers comfortable :
- Consider giving the child liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen (depending on age) for aches, pains and fever etc
- Give them plenty of drinks to keep them hydrated – a fever can easily cause them dehydration
- If the child has a cough, either put a warm air humidifier or use a warm bowl of water in the room to help make the air more humid. This may help relieve the cough.
- Help keep room dark for those sensitive to light by dimming lights, closing blinds/curtains etc
- Use a damp cotton wool ball or pleat to clean the eyes. Remember, use only one piece per eye to avoid passing any infection form one eye to the other.
Prevention of Measles
Children with the Measles Virus should stay away from children and others for at least 5 days after the rash has appeared as this is when the virus is most contagious. Although children and others who have already been vaccinated against Measles are unlikely to catch it, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Children with measles should also be kept away from the elderly or immunocompromised as they are at a higher risk of catching measles.
The first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination should be given to babies who are between 12 to 13 months old. Recent headlines have shown many parents have not been taking their child for this vaccination and so Measles cases seem to be on the rise in the UK. Although in recent news, many parents are now being urged to vaccinate their children if they have not already been at baby-teenager age.
Children are given a second dose before they start school (typically between the ages of 3-5 years old) to help provide increased protection against the virus, with less than 1 percent of children remaining at risk after getting it.