Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that is characterized by a red rash, high fever, and a range of other symptoms. Measles is caused by the measles virus, which is spread through respiratory secretions, such as saliva, mucus, and feces, from an infected person. Measles is most commonly found in children, although it can occur in people of all ages. While measles can be a serious illness, it is highly preventable through vaccination. In this article, we will provide an overview of measles in children, including its symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention.
The symptoms of measles typically appear about 7-14 days after exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms of measles include:
- Rash: The most characteristic symptom of measles is a red rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash usually appears about 14 days after infection and lasts for about 5-6 days.
- Fever: Measles is often accompanied by a high fever, which may be accompanied by headache, muscle pain, and fatigue.
- Cough: Measles is a respiratory illness, so a cough is a common symptom. The cough may be accompanied by runny nose and red, watery eyes.
- Other symptoms: Other common symptoms of measles include swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite.
Measles is caused by the measles virus, which is spread through respiratory secretions,such as saliva, mucus, and feces, from an infected person. The virus is spread through close contact with an infected person or through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Children are more prone to measles because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to be exposed to the virus in settings such as schools and daycare centers.
There is no specific treatment for measles, as the virus must run its course. However, there are some things that can be done to help alleviate the symptoms and prevent complications:
- Bed rest: Children with measles should get plenty of rest and stay hydrated to help their bodies fight the infection.
- Over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be used to reduce fever and discomfort associated with the rash. It is important to follow the dosing instructions on the medication label and not give aspirin to children, as it has been linked to a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.
- Vitamin A: Children with measles may benefit from vitamin A supplementation, as vitamin A deficiency has been linked to increased morbidity and mortality in children with measles. Vitamin A supplements should be given under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
If the child is experiencing severe symptoms or if complications arise, a healthcare provider may recommend additional treatment, such as antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections.
The best way to prevent measles is through vaccination. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is highly effective at preventing measles and is recommended for all children. The vaccine is usually given in two doses, with the first dose being given at 12-15 months of age and the second dose being given at 4-6 years of age. Children who have not been vaccinated or who have only received one dose of the vaccine are at higher risk of contracting measles.
In addition to vaccination, other measures that can help prevent the spread of measles include:
- Good hygiene: Children should be taught to cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing and to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
- Stay home when sick: Children who are sick with measles should stay home from school or daycare until they are no longer contagious to prevent spreading the virus to others.
- Avoid close contact with infected people: Children who are not sick should avoid close contact with people who are sick with measles or other respiratory illness.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Measles. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html