Measles, or rubeola, is a viral infection of the respiratory system. Measles is a very contagious disease that can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. An infected person can release the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze.
The measles virus can live on surfaces for several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces, anyone within close proximity can become infected.
Drinking from an infected person’s glass, or sharing eating utensils with an infected person, increases your risk of infection.
Measles is caused by infection with the rubeola virus. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected child or adult.
The disease is contagious for 4 days before the rash appears, and it continues to be contagious for about 4 to 5 days after.
Infection spreads through:
- Physical contact with an infected person
- Peing near infected people if they cough or sneeze
- Touching a surface that has infected droplets of mucus and then putting fingers into the mouth, or rubbing the nose or eyes
Symptoms of measles generally appear within 14 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:
- red eyes
- light sensitivity
- muscle aches
- runny nose
- sore throat
- white spots inside the mouth
A doctor can normally diagnose measles by looking at the signs and symptoms. A blood test will confirm the presence of the rubeola virus.
There is no specific treatment. If there are no complications, the doctor will recommend rest and plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
The following measures may help:
- If the child's temperature is high, they should be kept cool, but not too cold. Tylenol or ibuprofen can help control fever, aches, and pains. Children under 16 years should not take aspirin. A doctor will advise about acetaminophen dosage, as too much can harm the child, especially the liver.
- People should avoid smoking near the child.
- Sunglasses, keeping the lights dim or the room darkened may enhance comfort levels, as measles increases sensitivity to light.
- If there is crustiness around the eyes, gently clean with a warm, damp cloth.
- Cough medicines will not relieve a measles cough. Humidifiers or placing a bowl of water in the room may help. If the child is over 12 months, a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of lemon juice and two teaspoons of honey may help. Do not give honey to infants.
- A fever can lead to dehydration, so the child should drink plenty of fluids.
- A child who is in the contagious stage should stay away from school and avoid close contact with others, especially those who are not immunized or have never had measles.
- Those with a vitamin A deficiency and children under 2 years who have measles may benefit from vitamin A supplements. These can help prevent complications, but they should only be taken with a doctor's agreement.