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After the rise of COVID-19, it is hard to not be frightened of contagious viruses and infections. Our world can be an unforgiving place and when it comes to protecting our youth, things can be that much more intimidating. The truth of the matter is that at some point your child is going to get sick and when that happens you should be informed as much as humanly possible. With that being said, measles should be at the top of your list.
Measles is an extremely contagious respiratory infection. It causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms. Measles is rare in the United States thanks to widespread immunization, but millions of cases happen worldwide every year.
Measles (also called rubeola) is caused by a virus, so there is no specific medical treatment for it—the virus has to run its course. A child who is sick with measles should drink plenty of liquids, get lots of rest, and stay home from school or daycare to prevent the spreading of the infection.
The first symptoms of a measles infection are usually a hacking cough, runny nose, high fever, and red eyes. Kids also may have small red spots with blue-white centers inside the mouth before the rash starts.
The rash breaks out 3–5 days after symptoms start, sometimes along with a high fever of up to 104°F (40°C). The red or reddish-brown rash usually begins as flat red spots on the forehead. It spreads to the rest of the face, then down the neck and torso to the arms, legs, and feet. The fever and rash slowly go away after a few days.
Measles is very contagious. Believe it or not, 9 out of 10 people who aren’t vaccinated for measles will get it if they are near an infected person.
Measles spreads when people breathe in or have direct contact with the virus-infected fluid. It can pass through droplets sprayed into the air when someone with measles sneezes or coughs. Someone exposed to the virus usually shows symptoms 7–14 days later.
Children with measles can spread the disease from 4 days before the rash starts until about 4 days after that. They’re most contagious when they have a fever, runny nose, and cough. Those with weak immune systems due to other conditions (like HIV and AIDS) can spread the measles virus until they recover.
Even though there is no specific medical treatment for measles, you can help your child by encouraging extra rest and giving them a non-aspirin fever medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Also, children with measles should be kept away from others for 4 days after their rash appears. For those with a weak immune system, this should continue until they make a full recovery, and all symptoms are gone.
A measles infection can last for several weeks. Symptoms usually start 7–14 days after someone is exposed to the virus.
The best way to protect your kids is to make sure they’re immunized against measles. For most children, measles protection is part of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine (MMRV) given when they’re 12 to 15 months old and again when they’re 4 to 6 years old. The vaccine can be given to babies as young as 6 months old if they will be traveling internationally. It’s important to speak to your healthcare provider to see when the vaccine is needed.
Widespread immunization has made measles rare in the U.S., but outbreaks still happen. With that being said, measles outbreaks have been increasing worldwide, mostly due to people not being vaccinated. It’s important for all kids who can get the vaccine to get it on time. At-risk people (such as those with weak immune systems) can’t get the vaccine. But when a lot of other people are immunized against a disease, it protects them, prevents the disease from spreading, and helps prevent outbreaks.
Even though we are fortunate enough to live in a country that is mostly protected from measles, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms because it’s still possible to contract it. The truth is, we would rather live our lives in peace and not worry about such things, which is why the experts at Chai Care have your back. If you ever believe your child or loved one to be infected with measles or struggling with a different everyday medical emergency, our dedicated staff will always be here to offer a helping hand!
* Legal disclaimer: The content of this article and the entire Chai Care blog is for educational purposes only; it does NOT constitute medical advice and must not be considered as such. Please consult a medical professional regarding any symptoms or health concerns you or your loved ones.