Rubella (German Measles) In Children: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Rubella (German Measles) In Children: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

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Rubella is a contagious viral infection caused by the rubella virus. It mostly affects the skin and lymph nodes. Also known as German measles or three-day measles, it spreads through droplets or direct contact with saliva or mucus of an infected person. One of the distinctive symptoms of rubella is a red rash all over the body.

Although it can be mild in children, unborn babies whose mothers are infected during pregnancy may face serious problems.

Read this post to understand the symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures for rubella in children.

Symptoms Of Rubella

The symptoms of pediatric rubella infection are usually mild; the rash would appear two to three weeks after the exposure to the virus. Some common symptoms of rubella in children include (1) (2):

  1. Red-colored rashes that start on the face and neck and progress downward (rashes last for one to three days)
  1. Swollen lymph glands behind the ears and in the neck
  1. Low fever with a body temperature of less than 39℃
  1. Nausea and mild conjunctivitis
  1. Soreness and inflammation of joints (more common in older children and adolescents)

Once a child is infected, the virus spreads through the body in five to seven days. The child may spread the virus one week before the onset of rash and remain contagious up to seven days after the rash appears. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 25% to 50% of people do not develop a rash or any symptoms (3).

A woman infected with rubella during early pregnancy has a 90% chance of passing the virus to the fetus. The virus may cause a miscarriage, or the fetus may develop congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) (1). Always inform pregnant women around you if you or a family member has the infection.

Congenital Rubella Syndrome

Babies born with CRS suffer from many congenital disabilities. Some common disabilities associated with congenital rubella syndrome include (1) (2) (4):

As some of these impairments are lifelong and require therapies and surgeries, women of childbearing age are advised to take the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccination. However, it is not advisable to vaccinate pregnant women.

Who Is At A Higher Risk For Rubella?

Anyone who does not have immunity against rubella is at risk of developing rubella. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the highest risk of CRS is in women of childbearing age who do not have immunity to the disease (1).

Diagnosis And Treatment For Rubella

Your child’s doctor might diagnose rubella based on physical examination and the child’s medical history. The doctor might further recommend blood or urine tests to confirm the diagnosis (5).

Since rubella is a viral infection, there is no cure for it. It is best to vaccinate children and pregnant women beforehand. If your child is infected with the rubella virus, your doctor might recommend the following.

  • Increased intake of fluids
  • Adequate rest
  • Isolation to prevent the spread of the virus
  • Over-the-counter medications to reduce the severity of the symptoms (5)

Children might recover from rubella within a week.

The caretaker should always wash and disinfect the infected child’s clothes and dry them under the sun. The child should be instructed to sneeze by covering their nose and mouth. Such precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of the infection.

Prevention Of Rubella

The best way to prevent the infection is through vaccination. The vaccine for rubella is a live attenuated strain, and a single dose can give long-lasting immunity to more than 95% of children (6). The vaccine is available in monovalent (single vaccine for rubella) form and is also administered in combination with other vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, in rare cases, children can get rubella even if they had been vaccinated or had a previous rubella infection (7).

According to the CDC, all children should get two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose should be given at 12–15 months of age, and the second dose at 4–6 years of age. Children can also receive the second dose 28 days after the first dose (8).

Possible Side Effects Of The Vaccine

There may be mild adverse reactions after the vaccination, including pain and redness at the injection area, low-grade fever, rash, and muscle aches (1).

However, children with the following conditions should consider vaccination only after consulting a doctor (8).

  • Children with life-threatening allergies and a weak immune system due to HIV or cancer and children undergoing medical treatments such as radiation, immunotherapy, steroids, or chemotherapy
  • Children with a family history of immune system problems
  • Children who had a condition that makes them bleed or bruise easily
  • Children who have tuberculosis or had other vaccines in the past four weeks
  • Children who are moderately or severely ill

Although rubella is a mild infection in children, it can cause adverse effects if a mother is infected during pregnancy. The best way to prevent rubella is through immunization. If your child is diagnosed with rubella, isolate them from the rest of the children and family and take all precautions to prevent the spread of infection.

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