Frequently Asked Questions


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What is measles?

Measles, or rubeola, is an infection caused by the rubeola virus. Measles is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is also spread through direct contact, such as sharing cups or toys.

What are the signs and symptoms of measles?

  • Your child may have a fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and muscle aches.

  • Your child's eyes may be red, irritated, and sensitive to light.

  • Your child may develop a rash about 2 to 3 days after he starts to feel sick. The measles rash usually begins on the face and head and then spreads down to the legs and feet. It may first appear as tiny spots that later join together to make large patchy bumps. The rash usually disappears in 5 to 8 days, and may cause the skin to peel afterward.

  • Your child may have small white spots that appear inside his mouth, usually on the cheeks.

  • Your child may have abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How is measles diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider can usually diagnose measles based on your child's symptoms and physical exam. Your child may need a blood test to confirm the infection.

How is measles treated?

The goal of treatment is to decrease your child's symptoms. He may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen: These medicines decrease pain and fever. You can buy them without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give to your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage if not taken correctly.

  • Cough medicine: This is given to decrease your child's urge to cough and help him rest.

What are the risks of measles?

Your child may develop an ear infection. He may also develop an infection in his throat, airways, or lungs. In rare cases, encephalitis can develop. This is inflammation in your child's brain. It can cause seizures or brain damage and is life-threatening.

How can I manage my child's symptoms?

  • Give your child plenty of liquids: This will help prevent dehydration. Ask how much your child should drink each day. Give your child water, juice, or broth instead of sports drinks. He may need an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar your child needs to replace body fluids. Ask your child's healthcare provider where you can get ORS.

  • Help your child rest: Your child should rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.

  • Use a humidifier: A cool mist humidifier will help loosen the mucus in your child's throat and make it easier to breathe. It may also soothe your child's cough.

  • Give your child healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. This will help your child feel better and have more energy. If he is not hungry or gets tired easily, try feeding him smaller amounts more often.

  • Protect your child's eyes: Keep the lights dim or give your child sunglasses to wear. This will help decrease pain caused by sensitivity to light.

  • Avoid the spread of germs: Keep your child away from others. He will need to stay home from school or daycare until the fever and rash are gone. This usually takes about 8 days.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's cough lasts for more than 4 days.

  • Your child coughs up thick mucus.

  • Your child has an earache.

  • Anyone in your household develops a rash.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing or is breathing faster than normal.

  • Your child has a headache, drowsiness, and stiff neck.

  • Your child seems confused or less alert than usual.

  • Your child has a seizure.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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