Measles In Children: Symptoms, Treatment And Simple Home Care Tips

Measles In Kid

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That small rash on your child’s body could mean something deep. If it is accompanied by symptoms like fever and difficulty in swallowing, then it could be a case of measles. MomJunction tells you how to spot measles in your child, its symptoms, and treatment.

What Is Measles?

Measles is a contagious respiratory infection that causes rashes all over the body, a fever, runny nose, and cough. There are around 21 strains of the measles virus. And, according to a 2001 report by the WHO, 30 million measles cases are registered, and over 700,000 measles death occur every year (1). Measles is most common in countries where immunization coverage is low.

Causes of Measles In Children

Measles is caused by the virus rubeola and is extremely contagious. People who have not been vaccinated have a higher chance of getting infected.

  • Measles spreads when people have direct contact with the virus-infected mucus or through breathing in infected air.
  • Patients are most contagious when they have a fever, cough, and sneezes.
  • An infected child can pass it on to others from four days before a rash appears to four days after the rash is gone (2).

The good news is that measles does not recur. Identifying the signs of infection is the best way to stop the virus from spreading. Read on to know how to do that.

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Symptoms Of Measles In Children

The symptoms usually appear after 10 to 12 days from the day of exposure to the virus. Common symptoms of measles include (1):

  • Cough
  • Fever, usually above 38o
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Runny nose or coryza
  • Sneezing
  • Sensitivity to light or photophobia
  • Red rashes
  • Watery eyes
  • Body aches
  • Mouth ulcer

The rashes usually appear two to four days after the fever begins and last for about four to five days.

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[ Read: Viral Infection In Children ]

Diagnosis Of Measles

Your kid’s doctor can diagnose measles based on the characteristic rash and symptoms such as a cough, fever, and sore throat. He may also investigate the inner lining of the cheek to find out if there’s a bluish-white rash. If necessary, he may suggest a blood test which will confirm if the rash is measles.

Measles Treatment For Children

There is no specific medical treatment for measles because a virus causes it. The only option is to let the virus run its course.

No prescription medicine is administered to treat measles.

  • The pediatrician may recommend paracetamol, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the aches in your child’s joints and muscles.

If there are no major complications, the doctor would recommend rest and plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration is necessary. Otherwise, use of certain prescription medicines becomes necessary.

Drugs Used During Measles

The following drugs are recommended for children with measles (1)

  • Paracetamol
  • Ampicillin
  • Amoxycillin
  • Cotrimoxazole (a fixed combination (1:5) of trimethoprim and sulphamethoxazole
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Cloxacillin
  • Nalidixic Acid
  • Procaine Penicillin injection(in IU)

Doctors may also recommend these over-the-counter medications for reducing fever that accompanies measles:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

Aspirin is usually not approved for children aged under 16 years to avoid unnecessary health complications such as Reye’s syndrome (3). The drug is especially avoided when the child has a viral infection.

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[ Read: Ibuprofen For Kids ]

When Should You Take Your Child To The Doctor?

Seek immediate medical help if your child has the following complications due to measles.

  • Eye complications
  • Ear infection or otitis media
  • Diarrhea
  • Croup
  • Malnutrition
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pneumonia
  • Dehydration (dryness of the mouth, less urine, extreme drowsiness)
  • Difficulty in Breathing

Long-Term Problems Of Measles

Measles is associated with long-term health problems. These include blindness, chronic lung disease, malnutrition, and recurrent infections. If the measles infection is acute, the risk of contracting other infections is high for several months after recovery. About half of the acute cases are seen in children below the age of one year, when the risk of fatality is also high.

Along with medication, you need to take some care at home to make the condition less difficult for the child.

Home Care Tips For Measles In Children

Here are a few things you can follow at home:

  • Avoid dehydration. Make your child drink plenty of water and liquids through the day. Include fresh fruit and vegetable juices as well as soups in his diet.
  • Use a room humidifier in case of a cough or a sore throat.
  • The doctor may suggest vitamin A supplements. Give them as per the doctor’s recommendation.
  • For any crustiness around the eyes, clean gently with warm, damp cotton.
  • Don’t let the child watch television, to prevent strain on the eyes.
  • In case of very high temperature, try to bring down the child’s fever by tepid sponging (dabbing the child’s face and arms with a wet sponge or cloth) or with lukewarm or cold wraps. (4)
  • Do not smoke near the child.
  • Since measles heightens sensitivity to light, using sunglasses and dimming the lights in the surrounding helps.
  • During the contagious stage, the child should not be sent to school to avoid the spread of the diseases to other children.

As measles does not have a treatment, and the child has to suffer for a few days, it is best for you to take some preventive measures.

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[ Read: Rubella In Kids ]

Prevention Of Measles In Children

Death, diseases, and disability from measles can be prevented successfully through immunization.

  • Usually, the MMR vaccination is sufficient to protect children from measles. The first MMR shot should be given when the child is between 12 and 15 months old. The second dose is given between four and six years of age.
  • Children aged six to 11 months, and traveling internationally, should be given an early dose of MMR. The two routine doses given at 12-15 months (and later at 4-6 years), will also have to be administered to these children to ensure protection. Such children receive a total of three MMR vaccines.
  • In some countries, measles vaccinations are a part of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination (5).
  • If your child has been exposed to measles, consult your doctor or the health department for advice immediately.
  • Non-immunized infants should be given the measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure. If measles still develops, it lasts for a shorter time and has milder effects.

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Teach your child to practice healthy habits as they can protect him from contracting contagious diseases like measles. Stress on the importance of washing hands and using a sanitizer before and after meals. Also, ensure your child carries a handkerchief, especially if he is suffering from cold and cough.

Have an experience or advice to share? Comment in the below section.

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