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What are the Common Signs of Measles in Adults?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most noticeable symptom of measles in adults generally is a red, blotchy skin rash. Certain other flu-like symptoms sometimes accompany measles, and some patients also experience or develop diarrhea, earaches or infections, and pneumonia. As long as no complications arise, treating measles in grown ups is mostly an at-home process involving over-the-counter medication, fluids, and rest. Adult vaccinations are effective in preventing and sometimes stopping measles. Even if an infected person doesn’t seek professional medical treatment, he should notify his doctor of the illness so local health departments can be on alert.

Rash symptoms start to appear anywhere between one or two weeks after infection. Probably the most visible indicator for recognizing measles in adults is the rash that accompanies the illness. The rash can appear anywhere from three to five days after the symptoms appear. This means that a measles rash develops somewhere between ten to nineteen days after infection. The rash is generally, red, flat, and blotchy, and usually begins near the face and works its way to other parts of the body. It’s important to avoid scratching or picking the rash, as that can help the illness spread. Adults with measles can be contagious up to four days after the rash disappears.

Additional symptoms of measles are similar to symptoms of other kinds of illnesses. For example, measles in adults can bring flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, and a fever. Coughing, sneezing, sore throats, and runny noses are common symptoms of measles in adults. Some adults who contract measles might experience dry or watery eyes and light sensitivity, and some might develop earaches, white patches lining the cheeks, and even diarrhea. The signs of measles can apply to various illnesses, so to obtain a correct diagnosis a person experiencing the symptoms should seek medical attention even if the rash isn’t present.

Most adult patients with measles are able to heal on their own. Some over-the-counter medications for fever reduction and to soothe the itching rash may be necessary. The person should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid contact with others as much as possible. If the patient develops other illnesses, such as an infection or pneumonia, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics. Although many cases of measles in adults can clear up on their own with proper care, the person should notify his doctor so it can be reported to the area’s local health department in case of an outbreak.

Adults who haven’t had either of the measles vaccinations should consider receiving adult vaccinations, even if they believe they’ve already contracted the illness. One is the MMR vaccine, which covers measles, mumps, and rubella, and the other is a single measles vaccine. Frequent travelers and people who work or attend school in public fields, such as teachers, college students, health care workers, and day care workers, might need two vaccinations to ensure protection. Measles vaccinations can bring certain side effects, but most are mild such as fever and injection site redness and swelling. Doctors generally don’t recommend vaccinations for women who are pregnant or people who have serious problems with their immune systems.

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Discussion Comments
By Realited — On Jan 21, 2014
Isn't this something we want to infect us, so that we have the proper antibodies to prevent it from being a life threatening disease? I thought that was why they give you things like the flu shot to purposely infect your body with something so it will design white blood cell antibodies to kill when it comes again. Or do I have it the other way around?
By Contentum — On Jan 20, 2014
One wonders when the day will arrive where things such as this are no more. I mean humans have already removed polio from the list, so I wonder how soon before measles, mumps, and chicken pox are also totally terminated?
By Grinderry — On Jan 19, 2014
@Realited: I think it has more to do with your body's physical fitness level. Some people who are sickly all the time have a terrible experience with measles, mumps and other childhood infections. Others might not even know they're sick, since for them it's just a mild fever or a small itchy patch. The various levels of severity when it comes to most infections can vary a great deal and the outcomes of such infections can also run the spectrum from mild to serious.

Also bear in mind that one human body is completely and totally different from another. What only slightly affects one person might severely affect another one, with the difference being only that their cells might be a little different. There are way too many variables that go into the makeup of the human body, the extent to which it can become infected, the avenues that infection would take in getting into its host, and the reaction that host would have. Sometimes, it's not about the virus or infection at all, but how we react to it.

By Realited — On Jan 18, 2014
I remember getting this shot at the age of eight years old. And I've never had the experience of getting measles. I guess sometimes it's just a luck of the draw.
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