What is measles?

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Anyone can acquire measles if not vaccinated or have not got it before, but it is quite common among young children. In most cases, the condition typically clears up within 7-10 days.

Signs and symptoms of measles

The primary symptoms of measles usually develop around 10 days after being infected. The following are the indicative symptoms to watch out for:

  • High body temperature or fever that can reach up to 40 degrees C
  • Cold-like symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sneezing
  • Small-sized, grayish-white spots on the interior of the cheeks
  • Sore, reddened eyes that are sensitive to light
    Cold-like symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sneezing

After a few days, a rash with red-brown blotchy appearance will develop. This typically starts on the head or upper neck area before radiating outwards to the rest of the body.

When to seek further care

It is vital to set an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible if an adult or child is suspected with this condition.

Call the doctor first before the visit since necessary precautions must be observed to reduce the risk for spreading the infection to others. A doctor should be consulted if the individual has been in close contact with someone who has measles and if not fully vaccinated or have not had the infection before even if there are no evident symptoms.

Is measles serious?

Always bear in mind that measles can be annoying but typically subside within 7-10 days without causing any further health issues. Once an individual had measles, the body is able to establish immunity or resistance to the virus and it is unlikely to acquire the condition again.

On the other hand, measles can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications in some individuals such as infections of the brain (encephalitis) and the lungs (pneumonia).

How does measles spread?

The virus responsible for the condition is present in tiny droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected individual who sneezes or coughs.

Anyone can easily catch measles by breathing in these droplets or by touching surfaces that the droplets settled on. Take note that the virus is capable of surviving on surfaces for a few hours. Individuals who have measles are considered infections from the time the symptoms develop up to 4 days after the rash initially manifests.


Measles can be prevented by the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). The vaccine is administered in two doses as part of the childhood immunization program. The initial dose is given when the child is around 13 months old and the second dose is given before the child starts school.

Older children and adults can be given the vaccine at any age if they have not been fully vaccinated before.


There are ways to relieve the symptoms and minimize the spread of the infection.

  • Do not allow the child or adult to go to school or work for at least 4 days when the rash initially appeared
  • Provide ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve the pain and fever
  • Use a moist cotton-based wool to clean the eyes
  • Encourage the individual to drink water to avoid dehydration
  • Close off the curtains to reduce light sensitivity

In severe cases, especially those that have complications, admission to the hospital is required for proper treatment.

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