How to Recognize and Treat* Measles?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

Measles, just another childhood illness or a danger lurking?

Measles is most commonly just another childhood illness if the correct precautions and treat-ment measure are taken. If not the results could be devastating and could even result in death. Measles (Rubeola) is an extremely infectious disease caused by the Rubeola Virus. Measles is something which is always present in the air and most people develop a natural resistance to it. In the unfortunate instance, a community which has not been exposed to the virus previously may have extremely serious results. Interestingly, humans are the only natural hosts for the Measles Virus.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of measles are often similar to those of more common illnesses which is why it some-times goes undetected. Some symptoms may even be mistaken for those of the common cold or flu. A runny nose, dry cough, watery eyes, sneezing, all over body aches and swollen and in-flamed eyes (conjunctivitis) are all flu like symptoms. Raised fever could be a marker for any kind of infection, although in measles the temperature becomes dangerously raised and that is always a cause for concern. A bodily rash which appears within a few days of experiencing the flu like symptoms may be a sure sign of measles. Although all rashes in children, are not measles, it is always best to have it seen to by a medical practitioner as measles could have some dangerous and long lasting effects. The rash is reddish in color and usually starts behind the ears and spreads to the neck and the rest of the body a few days thereafter. One of the symptoms which points directly to measles is a sensitivity to light.

Symptoms of measles

How do you Contract Measles?

Measles is contracted in numerous ways. If you are in physical contact with an infected person, the virus could be spread to you. Being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person is a very quick and easy way for the germs to spread, this is why it is always so imperative that you cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. The virus remains alive for approximately 2 hours outside of the body. If you touch a surface containing any mucus from an infected person within that 2 hours period and then rub your eyes or put your hands in your mouth, you could become infected. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat in of the infected individual. The virus in contagious for 4 days before and after the rash appears so they may not know they have it themselves when going out in public. All these factors make transmission of the disease so unpredictable.

How is Measles treated?

There is no known treatment for measles that can actively get rid of the virus. Treatments are given to give symptomatic relief and make the infected person more comfortable. Fever medica-tion should be given whenever necessary. Swollen, inflamed eyes should be cleaned regularly with warm, damp cotton wool. Fluids should be freely given to the infected person to ensure that dehydration does not take place. For coughing, a suitable cough syrup should be administered as directed.

Keep the lights dim to avoid the sensitivity to light and wherever possible keep the infected per-son isolated so the virus does not spread. Vitamin A has been shown to greatly reduce* complica-tions caused by measles. Antibiotics will not get rid of measles as it is a virus. Antibiotics can however be used to treat* any secondary infections.


Infected persons with a weak immune system are more likely to suffer severe complications than a healthy person. Adults have been known to suffer worse complications than healthy young children.

Vomiting, diarrhea, eye infections, bronchitis and ear infections are all common complications of measles. More severe complication can include febrile convulsions which are caused by high temperatures. Although frightening to witness, most people fully recover from these fits. In people with weakened immune systems, pneumonia can develop and can be fatal.

Less common symptoms are hepatitis, encephalitis which is an inflammation of the brain which could lead to coma and even death. Encephalitis can appear few years later. Thrombocytopenia which affects the ability of the blood to clot and encourages easy bruising is also a complication which has been recorded with less frequency. Nerves supplying the eye muscles may be affected by the virus causing squints.

Symptoms which are very rarely recorded including, Neuritis which may lead to blindness and heart complications.

Contracting measles during pregnancy can affect your growing baby. Miscarriage, early labor and low birth weights are all well known symptoms.

According to the study carried out by the NCBI to show adverse effects of the measles virus on the expectant mother and the unborn fetus, it is apparent that there are definite negative effects. 58 Pregnant women who were actively infected with the virus, were studied to note and record any maternal and fetal effects. 15 of the 58 women developed pneumonia and 2 of these women developed a fatal case. The most common fetal effect noted, was premature birth. 5 of the preg-nancies resulted in natural and spontaneous abortion. Through this study is becomes very ap-parent that there are negative effects.

Measles Outbreak: Everything You Need to Know in 90 Seconds


Always ensure that you and your children have their measles vaccinations at the appropriate times. The MMR vaccination can prevent the contraction of measles.
If you do however contract measles, chances of you contracting it a second time are extremely rare as the body builds up an immunity to the virus. Measles deaths in Africa decreased* by 91% between 2000 and 2006 due to the measles initiative where the measles vaccination was given freely to all. The same initiative saw the global measles death rate drop by 74% between 2000 and 2007.
Global Figures released by WHO (World Health Organization) in 2014 revealed very interesting statistics

  • 266701 reported cases of measles
  • 145700 estimated deaths (2013)
  • 85% estimated MCV (Measles vaccination) coverage
  • 63% of countries reached more than 90% MCV (Measles vaccination) coverage


Measles is a very serious virus with extremely uncomfortable symptoms. If you think that you or any family member or friend may have the virus, please ensure they are checked by a medical practitioner and take the appropriate treatments. Fevers must be kept in check due to the irre-versible complications that can cause it. All necessary precautions must be taken to prevent the spread of the virus. If you have been in contact with anybody who is pregnant or may not have had the virus, please do the right thing and let them know that the virus is in the air and that it may have been passed to them. Although measles can be a harmful, childhood illness to most; it can also be life threatening to others. Be responsible about vaccination and in the event it is con-tracted always be especially conscious to do everything you can to prevent spreading.



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Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.