Early symptoms of measles

The early symptoms of measles appear 7-14 days after being exposed to the virus. The most identifiable symptom is a full-body skin rash consisting of large, red/reddish-brown, flat splotches, usually flowing into each other. However, this rash is generally preceded by 3-5 days by other symptoms.

Early signs of measles include:

·         High fever up to 104 F (40 C).

·         Dry cough.

·         Runny nose.

·         Sore throat.

·         Conjunctivitis (eye inflammation).

·         Koplik’s spots (small white spots with blue/white centers on a red background inside the mouth or the cheek inner lining).

Sequence of infection stages

·         Infection and incubation

The virus incubates for 10-14 days after the person has been infected. No signs or symptoms are present at this stage.

·         Non-specific signs and symptoms

Measles usually start with a mild fever along with a persistent cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and sore throat for 2-3 days.




·         Acute illness and rash

The rash starts as clusters of small, flat, red spots on the forehead and on the face at the hairline and behind the ears that spread down to the neck, torso, arms, legs, and feet. Also, small, raised bumps may appear on top of the flat spots. Simultaneously, the fever rises as high as 104-105.8 F (40-41 C). The rash disappears after a few days in the same order as it appeared (first the face and the feet last). 




·         Communicable period

A measles-infected person is highly contagious for a period of 8 days – 4 days prior to the appearance of the rash and 4 days after. Ninety percent of people who have not been inoculated against measles will catch the virus if they are close to an infected individual. The measles virus lives and reproduces in the nose and throat; it can also live on surfaces or airspace for as many as 2 hours. It is usually transmitted through coughing and sneezing.


The good news is that measles is a perfectly preventable disease. If you have been vaccinated against it you are almost 100% guaranteed not to get it. And the more people receive the vaccine, the less the likelihood of an outbreak. So get vaccinated if you haven’t, and convinced as many people as you can to get themselves and their children immunized as well. Additionally, make sure your vaccines are up to date if you’re going to travel to a third world country where the virus is still prevalent – or to Disneyland. The measles vaccine is so good that it may even offer protection against the infection if administered within 72 hours of exposure – or at least ensure the symptoms are milder and shorter-lived.

Make no mistake; measles can have complications, ranging from common to severe:




·         Ear infections in 10% of children which can lead to permanent loss of hearing.

·         Diarrhea in less than 10% of people.

·         Pneumonia – the leading cause of death in children with measles – in up to 5% of children.

·         Encephalitis in 1 in 1,000 children with measles, which can cause convulsions and render the child deaf or mentally retarded.

·         Death in 1-2 in 1,000 children with measles.


Realistically there should be no treatment for measles because it is so easy to prevent it. But since so many people would rather have their children baptized than immunized, there are treatment alternatives.

Treatment options for measles include:

·         Immune serum globulin for pregnant women, infants, and people with weak immune systems who have been exposed to measles. Administered within 6 days of exposure.

·         Fever reducers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve).

·         Antibiotics.

·         Vitamin A.

  Additionally, home remedies include:

·         Plenty of rest.

·         A lot of fluids (water, herbal tea, fruit juice).

·         A humidifier.

·         Resting the eyes (low lights, sunglasses, no reading or watching TV).