symptoms and treatment

Vaccinations may have done a great job at cutting back on measles in the UK, but it's still a little too early to rule it out just yet. It's rare, but any children who haven't had the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine (or who live in areas with low uptake) are still at risk. This is why we've created a short guide to help you spot and treat the signs and symptoms of measles in your little one.

baby with measles

what are the symptoms of measles?

We're all probably familiar with the reddish brown blotchy rash (which spreads outwards from the head or neck), but the very first symptoms of measles are actually quite different.

Measles starts with cold-like symptoms (so, runny noses and coughing), followed by a fever and a high temperature of around 40°C. Your baby's eyes might be sore, red, and really light sensitive. If you look inside their cheeks you might notice some small, whitish-grey spots.

Measles is really contagious, so try to keep your little one away from other children as soon as you suspect they have it.

baby with measles rash
baby with measles rash

when should i ring the doctor?

Phone your GP for an appointment as soon as you think your child has measles. As the disease is so contagious, it's best to tell the receptionist what's going on, too. They might need to make alternative arrangements to avoid the illness spreading, such as the doctor coming to visit you at home rather than the other way around.

Although measles itself isn't dangerous, it can cause complications like encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and pneumonia (a nasty lung infection), so it's best to spot it early.

what causes measles?

Remember when your wise mum said "coughs and sneezes spread diseases"? She was talking about measles. The measles virus travels around in water droplets from sneezes and coughs, and people can catch it by breathing them in (lovely) or by touching a surface that the droplets have settled on.

The virus can survive on surfaces for a good few hours, so it's best to disinfect everything carefully if you think someone in your home has it. It's also a good idea to keep your little darling quarantined so the germs can't spread.

can i cure it at home?

Thankfully it tends to pass after a week or ten days. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to bring down fevers and reduce achy joints, but be careful not to give aspirin to under 16's.

It may sound a little extreme, but keeping your little one in a dark room with the curtains closed can make them feel more comfortable, as it helps with their light sensitivity. Gently clean their eyes with cotton wool and cool water and make sure they drink plenty of fluids while they're ill.

what do measles complications look like?

While you're caring for your poorly baby, it's important to keep an extra eye out for complications. If these pop up, you'll need to make a trip to the hospital for some specialist care.

Symptoms to look out for are the classic combination of sickness and diarrhoea. Measles can also lead to eye and ear infections, so look out for these body parts becoming red, swollen, and gungey. A sore throat could be a sign of laryngitis, while a convulsion should be treated seriously as it could potentially be caused by swelling of the brain.

Remember that these are worst-case scenarios and that they are best dealt with by the hands of expert medical professionals.