Measles Advice

Measles Advice 


Following the recent outbreak of measles in North Devon, please see the leaflet below for information and advice.

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The most effective way of preventing measles is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first MMR vaccination should be given when your child is around 13 months old and a booster is given before your child starts school. 

If your child is younger than 13 months and you think they may have been exposed to the measles virus, contact your GP immediately. The MMR may be given if they are over six months old, or they may be given antibodies for immediate protection if they are younger than nine months old.

It is very important not to go to your GP practice with a child who has measles.  If you do you risk passing on the infection to others in the waiting room.  If your child has symptoms of the disease please telephone your GP surgery in the first instance. 

Measles is very infectious.  Someone with measles should not go to school or socialise until 5 days after the onset of the rash.  They should particularly avoid contact with babies, pregnant women and people who are immunosuppressed either as a result of illness or treatment.

Symptoms of measles to look out for:

The initial symptoms of measles appear around 10 days after contact with a case The measles rash usually appears a few days afterwards. The illness lasts for up to 10 days.

The initial symptoms of measles include:

  • cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing 
  • red eyes and sensitivity to light 
  • a mild to severe temperature, which may peak at over 40.6C (105F) for several days, then falls but goes up again when the rash appears 
  • tiny greyish-white spots (called Koplik's spots) in the mouth and throat 
  • tiredness, irritability and general lack of energy 
  • aches and pains 
  • poor appetite 
  • dry cough 
  • red-brown spotty rash (see below)

The measles rash appears two to four days after initial symptoms and lasts for up to eight days. The spots usually start behind the ears, spread around the head and neck, then spread to the legs and the rest of the body. 

The spots are initially small but quickly get bigger and often join together. Similar-looking rashes may be mistaken for other infections, but measles has a range of other symptoms too, not just a rash.

Look at the NHS Choices childhood conditions slideshow to see what the measles rash looks like.

Most childhood rashes are not measles, but contact your GP if:

  • You suspect it is measles. 
  • Your symptoms worsen. 
  • Your temperature increases to above 38C (100.4F). 
  • Your temperature stays high after other symptoms have gone. 
  • There are signs of other related illnesses or complications of measles. Measles usually gets better by itself, but sometimes it can cause middle ear infections, or chest infections and although Measles causes a cough, this is not usually persistent, or productive, but in some cases, the cough will be more persistent and phlegm will be produced. For both of these complications, antibiotics will be required. 
  • In rare cases, the most serious complications are caused when the Measles virus infects the brain and causes encephalitis, this causes severe drowsiness and confusion and requires hospital treatment.

Treating measles

There's no specific treatment for measles and your immune system should fight off infection within a couple of weeks. 

If your child has measles, there are several things you can do to help make them feel more comfortable, including:

  • closing the curtains to help reduce light sensitivity 
  • using damp cotton wool to clean the eyes 
  • taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains 
  • drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration 
  • In severe cases of measles, especially if there are complications, hospital treatment will be needed. 

Although vaccinated children are unlikely to catch it, keep your child away from other children for at least five days after the rash has appeared. Once you have fought off the measles infection, you develop immunity (resistance) to it, but it is still important to be immunised.