Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Even though measles is known for the skin rash it is actually a respiratory infection. It can take up about 2 weeks for symptoms of the measles to appear after a person has been exposed to the disease. Initial symptoms of the measles include irritability; runny nose; red, sensitive eyes; hacking cough and a fever that can reach as high as 105°F.
Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by a virus. The vaccine can be given before or within three days after exposure to the disease. Most children are given the measles vaccine as part of the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) immunizations. The vaccine is normally not given to infants younger than 13 months-old, unless there is an outbreak. The MMR vaccine is normally given at 15 months, followed by a booster shot when children reach 11 or 12 years.
The fever reaches its highest when the rash, which looks like large flat reddish to brownish blotches, begins to appear. The rash usually begins on the forehead and spreads downward and normally takes about 3 days for the rash to make its way to the feet. Once it develops on the legs and feet, symptoms usually decrease in about 2 days. It normally takes about six days for measles to run its course.
Small, red, irregular-shaped spots with bluish-white centers develop in the mouth and are special identifying signs of the measles. These spots, known as Koplik’s spots, usually appear 1 to 2 days before the external rash develops.
Measles can cause many other problems including croup, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, conjunctivitis, myocarditis (inflammation of the lining that covers the heart), hepatitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and it can make the body more susceptible to ear infections or pneumonias caused by bacteria.
Measles is highly contagious. 90% of non-immunized people that live in the same household as a person with the measles will contract it. The virus spreads through fluid from the nose or mouth and through airborne droplets. The measles are contagious from 5 days after exposure to 5 days after the rash appears.
If your child has been exposed to the measles and is an infant, is taking medications that depress the immune system, or has a disease that affects the immune system, call your pediatrician. Monitor your child’s temperature at least once in the morning and once at night and if his or her fever goes above 103°F, give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to a child with a virus. Give your child water or juice to drink. Fluids replace water lost from the fever and reduce your child’s chance of developing lung infections.
Call your child’s doctor if your child has:
Signs of a lung infection (difficult or fast breathing, a cough that lasts for more than 4 days or that brings up discolored mucus, if his or her lips or nails are bluish or gray)
Loss of consciousness.