Contracting a viral infection is a cause for concern. Unfortunately, viral exposures do not result in immediate signs and symptoms. Measles is a viral disease, too, with children being more inclined to get affected by it. Also known as rubeola, the first symptoms will only begin to appear after 10 to 14 days of exposure to the virus. It may start with the child complaining of a runny nose and fever, but measles is only confirmed once the typical rash begins to appear all over the body.
How does Measles Spread?
The virus responsible for causing measles lives in the mucous membrane inside the infected person’s nose and throat and spreads when they cough or sneeze. It remains airborne and spreads rapidly. It can also spread by touch. The virus is believed to remain active for at least 2 hours on both wet and dry surfaces.
Measles is extremely contagious, with 9 out of every 10 people catching it immediately. The nature of the infection becomes evident with the appearance of the typical rash, but it becomes contagious well before the appearance of the first rash. The infection may spread early, sometimes with neither the patient nor those around being aware of it.
Do not be complacent when the rashes begin to disappear. Measles remains contagious for at least 4 days after the rashes fade, and the body slowly returns to its normal state.
What are the Common Symptoms of Measles?
Early signs of measles are very similar to that of the common cold. You will experience any or multiple of the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Dry cough
- Irritation at the back of your throat
- Sore throat
- Pain and inflammation in the eye that may result in conjunctivitis
- The appearance of Koplik’s spots is characterized by small white spots seen against a red background. It is usually spotted inside the mouth and inside the lining of your cheeks.
- Large blotches on the skin that forms a rash all over the body. The rashes may appear to be continuous in some areas too.
What are the Different Stages of Measles?
This viral infection follows a systematic pattern that can be divided into multiple stages. The total period of infection ordinarily lasts for about 2 to 3 weeks.
- Infection /Incubation– You will show no symptoms immediately on being infected with the virus. This is known as the incubation period when the virus remains inactive with no symptoms or discomfort being evident.
- Initial Signs– You may feel feverish, with a runny nose and cough, along with all the symptoms of a common cold. The body temperature does not indicate a high fever, but you may find your eyes streaming and becoming inflamed. It will persist for 2 to 3 days.
- The appearance of the Rash– The first rash appears on the face. It is in the form of tiny red spots, with a few of them flat, and others appearing to have raised edges. Some of the spots may be close together and will make the face look blotched up. The rash will spread to the arms and upper torso and then appear on the legs and thighs.
Body temperature rises as the rashes spread, with many young patients having temperatures of 104 – 105.8° F. Fading of the rashes take place in the same pattern, with the face clearing first and the lower extremities the last to be rid of rashes.
- Infective period– Measles remains highly communicable, i.e., capable of spreading the infection for 8 days. The virus has the power of infecting others 4 days before the first rash appears to 4 days after developing the rash.
Do you need a doctor to treat measles?
Experts highly recommend visiting a doctor immediately if you suspect being exposed to measles. It is imperative to contact a doctor urgently when the first rashes begin to surface. Carry the vaccination records of your family to help your doctor diagnose the condition better.
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What Causes Measles?
Measles is an infectious condition propagated by a specific virus. It enters the mucus membrane of the nose or throat and multiplies at a rapid speed, causing the symptoms to surface slowly. It usually spreads via airborne droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks loudly. The droplet that falls on a surface can survive for two days. Touching the infected surface during this period can infect a healthy person as well.
What are the Treatment Options for Measles?
There is no specific treatment available for measles at the moment—Doctors do advise specific measures to treat the symptoms. The medications usually include:-
- Antipyretic– Over the counter medications for bringing down the fever is recommended in most cases, while many doctors also prescribe medicines.
- Antibiotics– Medical practitioners may prescribe antibiotics for patients who develop bacterial infections along with measles.
- Vitamin Supplement– Children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency may develop a severe form of measles. Vitamin supplements can help to bring down the severity, along with symptomatic treatment.
Who is at Risk of Developing Measles?
You are at as much risk of developing measles as the next person. However, you need to be extra careful to avoid it by taking preventive measures when you:
- Are not vaccinated– You have never been vaccinated for measles, making you more likely to contract the infection.
- Have been traveling to foreign locations– Traveling to countries that do not have an effective immunization program puts you at an increased risk for catching the infection.
- Suffer From Vitamin A deficiency– Lack of adequate Vitamin A in your body will make you susceptible to viral infections.
What are the Complications of Measles?
There are several complications associated with measles. Do not panic if you experience any of the following, visit a doctor immediately, and seek treatment.
- Infection in the ear– Many patients develop a bacterial infection in their ear along with measles.
- Pneumonia– The immune system is sure to be weakened when you have measles. This increases the chances of developing pneumonia, with a number of patients suffering severe consequences that may become fatal.
- Encephalitis– The brain tissue may get inflamed, causing Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) that becomes evident right after you recover from measles. However, there have also been instances of Encephalitis occurring after a gap of several months.
- Respiratory Infections– The breathing tubes may get swollen, along with your voice box, when you have measles. This can cause breathing problems and increased hoarseness of voice that needs to be treated separately.
- Pregnancy Issues– Being infected with measles during pregnancy can cause several complications, affecting the growth of the fetus. Measles may cause stillbirths along with increasing the chances of preterm labor and the birth of low-weight babies.
How to Prevent Measles?
Measles can be easily prevented. Read and carry out the following methods:
- It is necessary to have your children vaccinated at an early age to prevent being infected with measles. The first immunization shot is administered to a child aged 9-12 months, whereas the second dose needs to be given between 12-15 months of age. This is often in combination with mumps and rubella vaccines .
- Adults who have never been vaccinated for measles may need vaccination too. It is best to contact an experienced doctor of medicine to discuss the right time and place for obtaining it.
- Preventive measures when there is an outbreak of measles is necessary. It is best to keep all unaffected family members away from the infected individual when the diagnosis is confirmed. Getting infants vaccinated at the earliest is mandatory in such circumstances, with unimmunized adults born in and after 1957 requiring vaccination too.
- It is important keep the patient in isolation when a doctor has confirmed measles. Adults can develop measles too. Ensure contacting a doctor at the earliest in order to remain protected.
It is imperative to get your child vaccinated in time to prevent getting infected with measles. Adults who have never been exposed to the virus should get themselves vaccinated too. Being safeguarded from the virus is mandatory, especially before you plan on visiting another country without quality preventive health programs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How serious is measles infection?
Measles is a severe infection, with 30% of affected children developing complications. The death rate from measles has been reported as 0.2% across the USA, although the mortality rate is higher for developing countries that do not follow a standard immunization program.
- Should pregnant women get measles vaccination?
The MMR vaccine that prevents mumps, measles (rubeola), and German measles (rubella) is not recommended for pregnant women. Medical professionals state that there is a minimal chance of congenital disabilities occurring when the vaccine itself ends up infecting the prospective mother.
- Do I need to report measles?
Measles is a serious infection that needs to be reported to the national authorities once it breaks out within a family or neighborhood. People suspecting exposure should take appropriate measures by consulting a doctor at the earliest.
- How effective is the vaccine?
You are advised to take the MMR shots and get the risks of being infected with mumps, measles, and German measles eliminated. It is important to vaccinate a child at 9-14 months of age as the antibodies from the mother remain in the bloodstream of the baby, negating the effect of the vaccine if given earlier.
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