What is measles?

Measles is an infectious disease caused by a virus.

Who gets measles?
Childhood measles has become increasingly uncommon following introduction of the MMR vaccination, which is given at around 12 to 18 months of age, with a second dose at the age of four to five. However, unvaccinated children are at risk of contracting measles.

What are the symptoms of measles?
About 14 days after exposure to the virus, the following symptoms start to appear:
* Raised temperature lasting several days. It is not uncommon for it to reach 40°C.
* Signs of a cold, including a barking cough, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and a sore throat.
* Red eyes and light sensitivity.
* Greyish spots in the mouth. These are known as Koplik’s spots.
* About four days after the onset of symptoms, a red rash starts to appear around the ears, which spreads to the rest of the body within a day or two.

Children with measles are infectious from four days before the rash appears and five days after it appears. The illness usually lasts for between ten days and a fortnight, and the child needs to stay off school until fully recovered.

Is measles dangerous?
In rare cases, measles can have serious complications, which include pneumonia, ear and eye infections, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

How is measles treated?
There is no specific treatment for measles other than resting in bed in a cool, darkened room. Paracetamol will help to bring down the temperature, but other medication should only be given on the advice of a doctor.

There is no need to call the doctor unless the child’s condition seems to be worsening or the temperature remains raised.

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