The Measles in Children: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

The Measles in Children: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Last update: 21 June, 2018

The measles are one of the most contagious illnesses that a child can catch. Although a vaccine exists to prevent the measles, we still want to provide you with important information regarding this serious disease.

The measles are the result of a viral infection. It’s very contagious, as the virus travels by air when a person coughs or sneezes. The disease can also spread through the eyes, mouth and ears.

Specialists estimate that 90% of those who come into contact with an infected person will catch the disease. Of course, this statistic only refers to those who haven’t received the vaccine. 

It’s true that, in developed countries, the measles don’t usually result in serious issues. Rather, catching the measles usually means several days of general discomfort.

However, total recovery is easier for children than it is for adults. Adults can present greater complications, which is why vaccination is so important.

Symptoms of the measles in children

If any of the symptoms below appear, then it’s important that you be very careful and seek medical attention. The symptoms usually arise between 8 and 15 days after exposure to the virus. 

When you notice the symptoms, you should notify your child’s school or daycare center so that other parents can be on alert with their own children.

  • Fever.
  • Koplik’s spots. These are small white spots on the inside of the cheeks. They look like grains of salt, and show up some 3 days before skin rash appears.
  • Coughing.
  • Mucus.
  • Conjunctivitis.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Skin rash. The rash associated with the measles appears as small red spots on the skin. It starts around the head and then spreads to the rest of the body downward.
The Measles in Children: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Complications associated with the measles

Now we’ll name some of the possible complications that can result from the measles.

However, keep in mind that none of these issues should arise if you follow your doctor’s recommendations and your child isn’t overexposed to other infections.

The possible complications of the measles are:

  • Ear infection.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Very serious cases of the measles can result in encephalitis. Encephalitis is the swelling of the brain. It’s very dangerous and can cause irreversible damage.

Treatment and prevention of childhood measles

There is no specific treatment for the measles. However, there is treatment for the associated symptoms. 

Measles are viral infections, so antibiotics have no effect on the illness. Your pediatrician will recommend medication to lower the fever and a cream to reduce the itchiness from the rash.

Try to keep your child from scratching as much as possible, as this may cause wounds that turn into scars. This is a challenge, but with a bit of patience, you’ll be able to do it.

Encourage your little one and tell him or her that in 2 or 3 weeks the symptoms will be gone. Yes, this is quite a while, but your child needs to understand.

As for prevention, vaccines are the most effective method.  While this is a very controversial issue these days, the World Health Organization recommends strictly following the vaccine calendar. This is the best way to protect your child against the measles.

The vaccine that protects your child against the measles is part of a triple vaccine that also protects against the mumps and rubella. This vaccine consists of 2 doses that your child will receive after his or her first birthday.

Tips for parents

Here are a few more suggestions for parents whose children are suffering from the mumps:

  1. Don’t medicate your child without a doctor’s prescription. Medicating your child without knowing for sure what your little one has can be very dangerous. Take your child to see a doctor and explain your son or daughter’s symptoms.
  2. Don’t get angry with your child for scratching the rash. The itch can be unbearable, and it’s hard for children to understand that it’s better not to scratch. Be patient with your little one and try to find ways to relieve the itching.
  3. Make sure that you yourself have the measles vaccine, unless you already had the measles at some point in your life. If you get sick, you won’t be able to take care of a sick kid. So take care of your own health as well. If you have any doubts, see a doctor and go over your own vaccine records. If you aren’t protected againts the measles, then you must be extremely careful as the disease is highly contagious.

Above all, we urge you to be understanding and compassionate towards your child. Give him or her all of your attention. Many times, a parent’s love, support and understanding are all that a child needs.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Delpiano L, Astroza L, Toro J. Sarampión: la enfermedad, epidemiología, historia y los programas de vacunación en Chile. Rev Chilena Infectol 2015; 32 (4): 417-429.
  • Sarampión. Organización Mundial de la Salud. [En línea]

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.