Once a common and deadly infection, measles is now preventable with a vaccine. Even though death rates worldwide are declining because of vaccination programs, the disease still kills about 100,000 children annually, most under the age of 5.
Measles can be fatal for small kids and cause serious consequences. Knowing what symptoms to look out for, however, can help you catch the infection early and prevent it from becoming a life-threatening situation.
What Is Measles?
Measles, also known as Rubeola or morbilli, is a childhood infection caused by a virus. It is an unpleasant condition but can be passed without treatment within 7 to 10 days.
Symptoms tend to appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The condition manifests as a skin rash comprising of large, flat blotches on the skin, which tend to merge together.
Common symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Very small grayish-white spots with bluish-white centers seen inside the lining of the cheek, mouth, or throat. These are also called as Koplik’s spots.
The infection occurs in sequence over a period of two to three weeks.
- The incubation period is spread over 10 to 14 days after infection. During this time, the patient does not show symptoms of measles.
- Typical symptoms of measles are mild to moderate fever, mostly accompanied by an unrelenting cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This phase may last two or three days.
- Rash occurs during acute illness. It consists of small raised red spots that give the skin a splotchy red appearance. It appears on the face followed by the ears and hairline. As the rash spreads, fever rises to 108° F.
- The duration of the disease spreading lasts approximately eight days, beginning four days before the rash appears and ending after four days after the disappearance of the rash.
Causes of Measles
Measles is caused by a virus that replicates in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult.
The disease is contagious and can spread through coughs, sneezing, and/or talking within close proximity. When infected droplets spread into the surrounding air, those inhaling the air can get infected. The infected droplets may remain active for several hours.
Diagnosis of Measles
A doctor generally diagnoses measles based on the typical rash associated with the disease. In addition, the small, bluish-white spots on the inner lining of the mouth are also main indicators of an infection. In some cases, a blood test is performed to confirm if the rash is truly measles.
There is no known treatment to get rid of an established measles infection. However, some precautions can be practiced to protect those who are already exposed to the virus.
- Vaccination can help those who have been already exposed to the virus. Non-immunized people, including infants, can be given the measles vaccine within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. In case the measles still manifest, the symptoms will be milder and might last a relatively shorter amount of time.
- Immune Serum Globulin: Pregnant women, infants, and people with vulnerable immune systems that are exposed to the virus may receive an injection of antibodies called immune serum globulin. If taken within six days of exposure to the virus, the antibodies can stop measles from occurring or reduce the severity of symptoms.
- Medication: In case of measles associated with fever, medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve) in small doses can help to relieve symptoms.
- Antibiotics can help to treat measles-associated symptoms such as pneumonia and ear infection.
- Vitamin A: It has been found that vitamin A deficiency is linked to measles. Hence, people with low levels of vitamin A have higher chances of being affected by measles. Intake of vitamin A can lessen the degree of measles affliction. Usually, a large dose of 200,000 IU is administered for two days.
Natural Remedies for Measles
When a child suffers from measles, a doctor will monitor the progress of the disease and look out for complications. At the same time, one can try the following home remedies.
- Rest and relaxation is important for the patient to be cured faster.
- Sufficient hydration of the body by drinking plenty of water, fruit juice, and herbal tea will help to replace fluids misplaced due to fever and perspiration.
- A humidifier can help to relieve cough and sore throat.
- Rest for eyes is essential for people with measles. Hence, one should avoid bright lights as they can be painful for patients. Use of sunglasses while going out in sun is necessary. Also, one should avoid reading or watching TV if the light is not tolerable.
Apis, Bryonia, Cuprum, Helleborus, Stramonium, Veratrum album or Zincum are prescribed depending on the symptoms. Consult a homeopath for detailed information on doses and medications.
If you have a feeling that you or your loved one might have contracted the measles, it is recommended to see your doctor immediately. If you wish to use an alternative form of medicine as opposed to conventional medications, speak to your doctor first to ensure that using a homeopathic remedy is the right option for you.
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Papania MJ, Wallace GS, Rota PA, Icenogle JP, Fiebelkorn AP, Armstrong GL, et al. Elimination of Endemic Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome From the Western Hemisphere: The US Experience.JAMA Pediatr. 2013.
Gastañaduy PA, Redd SB, Fiebelkorn AP, Rota JS, Rota PA, Bellini WJ, et al. Measles – United States, January 1-May 23, 2014.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014; 63(22):496-499.