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What are the Symptoms of Measles?

Measles begins with fever, sore throat, and a distinctive red rash that spreads across the body. As it progresses, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes may appear. Recognizing these signs early is crucial for prompt treatment and containment. Have you ever wondered how these symptoms evolve or why they're significant? Let's explore the stages of measles together.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Symptoms of measles, or rubeola, often include a runny or stuffy nose, fever, fatigue, coughing and sneezing within a week or two of being infected. The most recognizable measles symptom, maculopapular eruption, or the spotty rash from head to toe, may not occur until at least two weeks after a person is infected with the measles virus. Koplik's spots are reddish sores with white or bluish centers and these appear inside the mouths of people with measles.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is also one of the symptoms. The infection, commonly called pink eye, may involve one or both eyes and the symptoms include redness inside the eye as well as crustiness around the eyelid that temporarily closes it, especially upon waking. An additional symptom of measles in children is a middle ear infection, or otitis media. Younger children may grasp their ears and be more irritable and less active than usual, while older children with a middle ear infection may complain of earaches. Symptoms of measles in babies often include diarrhea and there may also be a loss of appetite.

A measles vaccine.
A measles vaccine.

Many people confuse the symptoms of measles with other conditions such as colds and flu until the rash of spots appears that starts on the head and works its way down the body. Measles is extremely contagious, but once a person has had it, he or she doesn't get it again. Medical help should be sought immediately when measles is suspected in adults or children. Measles is not usually serious, but it’s very contagious and there is a rare risk of developing the inflammatory brain condition called encephalitis. Symptoms of encephalitis include a stiff neck, fever, vomiting and headaches.

Sneezing can be a symptom of measles.
Sneezing can be a symptom of measles.

It's important to differentiate measles from German measles as they are two different diseases from totally different viruses. The medical name for measles is rubeola, while rubella refers to German measles. The symptoms of measles such as the spotty rash and signs of a cold or flu are the same in German measles. However, swollen neck glands is a common symptom of German measles that may not be experienced in measles. German measles is also different from regular measles in that it is very dangerous in pregnancy.

Fever and conjunctivitis may indicate the presence of a measles infection.
Fever and conjunctivitis may indicate the presence of a measles infection.

If a pregnant woman has German measles and passes it to her fetus, the result could be congenital rubella syndrome, which is the medical name given when a fetus is infected with the disease. Congenital rubella syndrome may cause physical and mental retardation as well as organ deformations and deafness. A blood test can determine a person’s immunity to rubella, or German measles. German measles vaccine is usually considered safe for a woman who may become pregnant if it's administered at least a month before pregnancy

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Discussion Comments

Grivusangel

Several years ago when I was in college, there was a measles outbreak on the campus of a major university in my state. The cause was determined to be either a defective initial/booster vaccine, or those who were never vaccinated for it. There were some sick kids on that campus.

It was so bad, in fact, that the Department of Education issued an edict saying *every* college student in the state had to show proof of a booster vaccine or recent immunization in order to register for the next quarter! Even though I know I was vaccinated because I had to have been to start school, the health department didn't have a record of me getting the vaccine. So, I had to get a red measles shot. Hurt like the devil and my arm swelled up like a spider bite at the injection site. Still, it was preferable to getting the measles at 20.

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    • A measles vaccine.
      By: Attila Németh
      A measles vaccine.
    • Sneezing can be a symptom of measles.
      By: coldwaterman
      Sneezing can be a symptom of measles.
    • Fever and conjunctivitis may indicate the presence of a measles infection.
      By: Stacy Barnett
      Fever and conjunctivitis may indicate the presence of a measles infection.
    • Coughing and fatigue are common symptoms of measles.
      By: Zsolt Biczó
      Coughing and fatigue are common symptoms of measles.
    • A middle ear infection may be a symptom of measles.
      By: Von Schonertagen
      A middle ear infection may be a symptom of measles.
    • A runny nose and cough are typically early signs of a measles infection.
      By: Ilike
      A runny nose and cough are typically early signs of a measles infection.