Measles in Children – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention


Measles is one of the most common diseases from which children suffer. It has been seen that every child suffers from measles in their childhood at least once. Also known as rubeola, measles is a contagious ailment, which is mainly caused due to a virus. Millions of children suffer from measles globally. Since it is a viral infection, there is no particular medication or treatment schedule for the same. However, there are ways in which the discomfort from the disease can be minimized. Many adults are also seen to suffer from measles, but it is mainly an ailment from which kids suffer mostly in the age group of 3-5 years.

Measles in Kids – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Prevention

measles in children

Causes of measles in children

Measles in children is caused by the rubeola virus. This virus is mainly present in the mucus of the nose or in the throat of the child or the adult who is infected by the virus. This ailment remains contagious for about 4 days before the time of appearance of rashes on the body to 4-5 days after the rashes appear. Droplets are the main means by which this disease spreads from one person to another. In the droplet too, the virus remains active for almost 2 hours.

Infection from the measles virus spreads through the following means:

  • When infected people sneeze or cough, the virus is discharged into the air and one can be affected by the same.
  • By physical contact with the infected person.
  • Children might get infected by touching a surface which has infected droplets of saliva or mucus. If eyes and nose are rubbed with the same infected hand or if the hand is put inside the mouth, the infection can get into the child directly.

How does the measles infection develop in the body of the child?

The measles virus acts really quickly once it enters the body of a child by any means. On entrance it starts multiplying right at the back of the lungs, throat and even in the lymphatic system. There are high chances that the infections spread quickly to other parts including the eyes, urinary tract, central nervous system and the blood vessels. It almost takes one to three weeks for the virus to establish itself. However, the symptoms start appearing between 9-11 days after the initial infection. A person who never had measles or is not duly vaccinated is at higher risk of getting the infection. This mainly happens when one breathes in the droplets which are infected or get in close physical contact with an infected person. It has been seen that almost 90% unimmunized people will be infected by the measles virus if they stay in the same house where an infected person stays.

Symptoms of measles in children

The signs and symptoms of measles in, children start appearing 10-14 days after the person is exposed to the measles virus. Some of the typical signs and symptoms of the disease include:

  • High fever
  • Dry and hacking cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Inflamed eyes
  • Red skin rash, which appear as blotches
  • Tiny white spots which have bluish white centers and is mainly found in the mouth or in cheek’s inner lining (Koplik’s spot)

There are sequential stages of the infection, which take place over a span of 2-3 weeks. The stages are as follows:

Incubation and infection – It is in the first 10-14 days of the measles infection that the incubation of the virus takes place. There are practically no signs and symptoms of measles in this period of the ailment.

Signs and symptoms, which are nonspecific – The first sign of measles is mild to moderate fever. The fever is also accompanied by runny nose, persistent cough, sore throat and inflamed eyes (which looks like conjunctivitis). This mild illness stays for a period of 2-3 days.

Rashes and acute illness – Rashes are considered as the most prominent sign of measles infection. The rashes appear in the form of small red spots. Many of the spots are slightly raised. The skin gets a splotchy look and red appearance when the bumps and spots appear in tight clusters. The rashes start appearing along the forehead and the hairline and behind the ears and then start spreading all throughout the body. The rashes go down to the arms and the trunk and then to the thighs, lower legs and feet. There is also a great rise in fever and it shoots up to almost 104-105◦ The receding of the rashes takes place gradually in the same order as it appeared.

Period in which the virus is communicated – A person who is infected with measles virus has high chances of infecting others. The virus can be spread within a span of 8 days during the ailment – four days before the appearance of the rashes and four days after the rash has finally appeared.

Diagnosis of measles in children

If you feel that your child is suffering from measles, take him to the general physician immediately. Usually the child is tested physically and the diagnosis is done on the basis of the symptoms. The rashes are studied well by the doctor along with the Koplik’s spot, which appears on the inside lining of the cheek. Many a times, a blood test is also recommended to be done for diagnosing measles.


Treatment for measles in children –As said previously, measles is caused due to a virus and hence there is no treatment for getting rid of the measles infection. However, there are some ways and measures through which protection can be provided to the vulnerable individuals who are infected.

Post-exposure vaccination -Vaccination is a good way of providing protection against measles virus. People who are not immunized, including infants and children, can be given the vaccination within 72 hours of exposure to the virus causing measles. If the ailment still develops, the symptoms are milder and the span of the disease is also shorter.

Immune serum globulin – Injection of proteins known as immune serum globulin can be given to infants, pregnant women and to people with weak immune systems, who are exposed to the measles virus. If the injection is given within 6 days of exposure to the measles virus, antibodies are created which can prevent the ailment. Even if it happens, the symptoms are less severe.

Medicines which are recommended for measles infection

Antibiotics – In many children suffering from measles, the child might develop an ear infection or pneumonia or some other kind of bacterial infection. For bacterial infections, the doctor might recommend some antibiotic.

Fever reducers – In measles infection, the fever rises to quite high levels. One of the ways of bringing down the fever levels is by giving fever reducing medications to the child. Ask the dosage of the fever reducing medication and administer likewise.

Vitamin A – It has been seen that people who have low levels of vitamin A in their body are prone to severe measles infection. It is recommended to supplement the patient with vitamin A for reducing the severity of the measles infection. Dose of 200,000 international units (IU) for 2 days is recommended.


Prevention of measles in children

It is said that measles happens only once during lifetime. If a person has had measles already, it is likely that they won’t get the infection again. It is also recommended to take the measles vaccine for additional protection. Generally the MMR vaccine is given for measles, mumps and rubella and is administered between the ages of 12-15 months. A booster shot is also given for measles between the ages of 4-6 years. In places where there is a serious outbreak of measles, the initial vaccination is given in as early as 6 months.

Home remedies and lifestyle that should be followed if a child has measles

When the child is diagnosed for measles and is suffering from the same, it is important to keep in close contact with the doctor. Parents need to monitor the condition of the child and understand the progress being made. In case there are signs of complications, it should be reported to the doctor immediately. For making the child feel comfortable and relaxed, the following things can be tried:

Keep the body hydrated – It is recommended to include abundant fluids to replenish the lost fluids in the body. Make the child drink fruit juice, plenty of water as well as herbal tea so that lost fluid from sweating and fever is replenished.

Rest the eyes – During measles, many children and adults find the bright light to be extremely bothersome and painful to the eyes. There are two ways in which this problem can be combated. Either one has to wear sunglasses or one can keep the lights low. Do not let the child read from a reading lamp as that strains the eye. Television can also be bothersome as the light might hurt the eyes.

Take rest – It is recommended to take as much rest as possible during measles fever and infection. The body recuperates better with rest. Refrain from stressful and heavy activities during the fever.

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