Complications from measles more commonly occur in children aged younger than 5 and adults older than 20. Serious complications of measles include blindness, inflammation of the brain caused by infection (encephalitis), severe diarrhea that may potentially lead to dehydration, ear infections, and severe respiratory infections. The most common cause of death associated with measles is from pneumonia. The majority of deaths from measles occur in developing countries.
- The first signs of infection are a bad cough, runny nose, fever, and red, watery eyes.
- Sometimes, at this stage, small red spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth ("Koplik spots").
- After 3–4 days, a rash begins with red spots, first appearing behind the ears and at the forehead, spreading down the neck, arms, trunk, and finally the legs. The red spots can merge together on the face.
- Measles does not usually itch.
- Make sure everyone in contact with the ill child has been vaccinated against measles or had measles in the past.
- Treat fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen.
- Encourage the child to drink fluid and to rest.
- Use a cool-mist vaporizer to reduce coughing.
- Call your child's doctor if you think he or she has measles, particularly if the child is an infant or has any medication or condition that weakens the immune system.
- Call the doctor immediately if the child has problems breathing, confusion, vision problems, or pain in the chest or belly.
Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.1258-1259. New York: Mosby, 2003.
Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.2044, 2047-2048. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
World Health Organization. Measles. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/. Revised November 2007. Accessed October 30, 2008.