If you’re caring for a young grandchild or family member, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles, one of the most contagious illnesses now on the upswing. Measles can be serious, especially for children younger than 5 years of age (and adults older than age 20 years) who are more likely to suffer from complications. Serious complications include pneumonia, deafness and encephalitis causing lifelong brain-damage and even death: One in four who develop measles need hospitalization. Less serious complications are ear infections and diarrhea.
Symptoms to watch
About seven to 14 days after a person is infected, measles symptoms typically begin with:
- High fever
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
Two or three days after symptoms begin, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash breaks out. It usually begins as flat red spots that appear on the face at the hairline and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet. Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots. The spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body. When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104° Fahrenheit.
Just how contagious is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious virus that can spread on contaminated surfaces and through the air to others up to two hours after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
Call ahead if you need to have someone checked for a possible measles
Because measles is so contagious, please call your clinic or hospital ahead of time to make arrangements for the measles assessment in a way that will avoid exposing others to the measles virus.
Information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control