What is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is sometimes also referred to as Rubeola. Symptoms and signs of measles include a hacking cough, fever, watery eyes and runny nose, as well as a rash. A characteristic feature of measles is the development of Koplik’s spots – small red spots with blue-white centers that appear inside the mouth. Sensitivity to bright lights is another common feature in children who have measles.
Measles is best known for the full-body rash it causes. This rash usually has a reddish-brown blotchy appearance and initially surfaces on the face, around the ears, and on the neck. Within three days, it then spreads to the rest of the face, neck, body and then on to the feet. The rash lasts for about a week.
The diagnosis of measles is based on the physical symptoms presented, especially the characteristic rash. In some cases, measles may lead to other health complications such as croup, bronchitis, pneumonia, pink eye, myocarditis, and encephalitis. Secondary ear and bacterial infections may also occur.
The measles vaccine, together with the mumps and rubella (German measles) vaccines (MMR), should be administered to prevent and protect against the disease. A booster dose is generally administered around the age of 4 or 5 years old.
Infants who have not been immunized may receive the measles vaccine within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. However, there has been controversy surrounding the MMR immunization— it has been linked to autism– most likely related to the inactive ingredients originally found in the vaccine.
What Causes Measles?
It is a very common but dangerous childhood disease caused by the paramyxo virus. Because of widespread immunization, the number of children who contract measles has declined dramatically. When cases of measles do occur, it is generally because children have not been vaccinated, their immunity has diminished since they received the vaccine, or they have weakened immune systems.
The measles virus is spread by the transfer of droplets from the nose, throat and mouth of someone who is in the early stages of the disease. The droplets are sprayed into the air during sneezing and coughing. Measles can also be transmitted through direct contact with the nasal and throat secretions of an infected person. Objects or personal items used by the infected person will also be contaminated with the measles virus.
Help for Measles
Pregnant women, infants younger than one year old, as well as those with a weakened immune system who contract the measles virus may be given a protein (antibody) injection called hyper-immune gamma globulin within 5 days of exposure to the virus to combat infection. This injection can prevent measles from developing or lessen the symptoms. Children with measles should be kept in bed at home until they recover fully.
Home treatment is usually the only treatment needed for measles. In short, you have to let the virus run its course. Measles is highly contagious, and it is crucial that the person infected be kept isolated until fully recovered. The period of isolation is normally from about four days before the rash breaks out, until four days after. Generally, children may resume their normal activities after 7 to 10 days once the rash and fever have disappeared.
Medications that may be taken to relieve symptoms such as a fever include acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is also important to remember that children should not be given aspirin for fear that they may develop a potentially fatal disease known as Reye’s Syndrome. Antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor if you develop a secondary bacterial infection such as an ear infection or pneumonia.
Natural treatments have also proven to be highly effective in relieving the symptoms of measles. Herbal and homeopathic remedies are gentle and suitable for children to use. Use herbal ingredients such as Echinacea purpurea and Astragalus membranaceous for their antiviral properties and tonic effect on the immune system.
In addition, herbs such as Inula helenium are effective as a respiratory tonic, while Withania somnifera assists with recovery, energy, and stamina. Furthermore, nature has a few handy remedies to soothe itching and calm irritated skin from the inside out, such as the bichemic tissue salts Kalium sulphate and Kalium muriaticum.
More Information on Measles
Helpful Tips for Children with Measles
- Make sure children with measles drink plenty of fluids like water, juice, tea or lemonade during this period, as children in particular become dehydrated very quickly.
- Use a humidifier to relieve the symptoms of a cough and sore throat.
- It is quite likely that bright lights may bother children – so dim the lights, close the curtains, and keep them as comfortable as possible.
- Children should also get as much as rest as possible.
- Children should not scratch the rash, however hard this may be!
- Vitamin A has been linked to reducing the severity of measles – ensure your child eats plenty of food rich in Vitamin A such as fish, liver, egg yolks, dark green leafy vegetables and yellow fruits.