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What are the Symptoms of Measles?

Updated on March 15, 2012

Measles are an infectious fever, occurring mostly in children, characterized by a typical skin eruption and accompanied by a catarrhal inflammation of the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and respiratory passages.

Measles frequently occurs in epidemic form and is most prevalent during the winter. It is a highly infectious disease, and its rapid spread is partly accounted for by the fact that infectivity is greatest in its earliest stages before the typical rash has appeared, and consequently before the specific disease can be diagnosed and timely isolation measures adopted. Measles is caused by a filterable virus.

Image is in the Public Domain
Image is in the Public Domain

Measles Symptoms

As a rule the incubation period lasts from ten to fourteen days. The onset is denoted by acute nasal catarrh, conjunctival congestion, and some degree of bronchitis. Sneezing, watery nasal discharge, redness and watering of the eyes, short and frequent coughing, hoarseness, malaise, and a rising temperature are the chief signs at this stage. On the second or third day the temperature may fall, and there may appear to be some improvement, but next day the temperature rises again and the rash erupts.

The rash, consisting of slightly raised spots tending to coalesce into crescent shaped groups, appears first on the forehead and spreads over the face and body generally within twenty-four hours. The face has a characteristically swollen, bloated appearance, while the skin of the body is mottled and blotchy. The rash is accompanied by "Koplik's spots" bluish red spots on the mucous membrane of the mouth opposite the molar teeth.

After two or three days the rash fades and by the end of a week no trace of it remains save a slight staining and a very fine "peeling." The catarrhal symptoms subside when the rash reaches its height and the temperature falls by crisis. In favorable and uncomplicated cases convalescence follows rapidly and recovery is soon complete.

A malignant form of measles may occur, but is fortunately not common.

There is intense catarrh of the respiratory and intestinal tracts associated with great prostration, and a fatal termination usually results.


Measles is particularly significant because of its complications which present both immediate and distant dangers. The immediately dangerous complication is Broncho-Pneumonia.

This is liable to occur in naturally delicate and young children, and frequently causes death. Eye and Ear Inflammations may be so severe as to lead to permanent damage to these sense organs. The inflammation of the mouth may assume a serious gangrenous form Cancrum Oris.

Persistent Gastric and Intestinal Catarrh is a not infrequent sequel. The more distant risk of measles lies in the tendency to conduce to constitutional weakness and to vulnerability to chest disorders- notably pulmonary tuberculosis.

Treatment of Measles

Put patient to bed in a warm room, with a fluid diet while there is fever. Sulphonamide treatment is indicated if complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia or middle-ear disease arise. It is most important that the bowels act freely and regularly. Plenty of water should be given. The eyes should be shaded from bright light.

Older children should not be allowed more than short periods of reading. The eyes should be bathed with a warm boracic lotion. Particular attention should be given to the cleanliness of nose, mouth and ears. A linseed and mustard poultice will often relieve the tiresome cough. Within a week, after the temperature has become normal and the catarrhal signs have ceased, the child may be allowed to get up, and in another week to go out if the weather be favorable.


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    • jhunpaler profile image

      jhunpaler 5 years ago from Philippines

      Since summer season is approaching, measles' cases might be on the rise again, thanks for this informative hub.