Dealing with measles can be scary for both parents and children. Learn what to do when you or your kid are infected with measles and how to manage the symptoms to make the recovery process as smooth as possible.
If you or your child develops the characteristic symptoms of measles — a thin rash of tiny red dots that begins on the head and spreads to the lower extremities — your first instinct may be to visit the doctor. But please do not leave without first contacting me.
Measles is particularly harmful to unvaccinated children and pregnant women, according to Dr. Sheila Nolan, chief of pediatric infectious diseases in New York. Once the virus has taken hold, you must let the illness run its course.
Despite this, there are safeguards you may take if you or your kid contract measles. Continue reading to find out more about them. And note that the disease can be prevented by receiving two doses of the MMR vaccine.
Symptoms of Measles
The characteristic symptom of measles is a thin rash of red spots that begins on the head and spreads downward. Additional symptoms include fever, congestion, cough, and eyes that are red and watery. The duration of the illness is normally two weeks, but fevers should only last about five days. See your doctor if you suspect measles for a proper diagnosis.
How to Deal with the Measles
Dr. Matthew Kronman of Seattle Children’s Hospital asserts, “Measles spreads astoundingly quickly among unvaccinated people.” “Just sharing the same air as an infected person is sufficient to spread the sickness. In addition, the diseased person’s room remains dirty and contagious for two hours after they depart.”
There is no antiviral treatment specifically for measles. Infected individuals must be isolated during the contagious phase, which lasts four days after the rash appears. (You are also contagious four days before the rash emerges, but most individuals do not realize they have measles until the rash appears.)
If there are unvaccinated family members in your home, contact your doctor to determine if there is still time for them to receive the vaccine or immunoglobulin (IG) therapy, which involves the transfer of protective anti-measles proteins—called antibodies—from pooled donated blood to unvaccinated individuals. Only unvaccinated, virus-exposed infants 12 months and younger, as well as unvaccinated pregnant women and youngsters with impaired immune systems, are encouraged to receive this medication.
Two doses of the MMR vaccine offer your child the best protection against measles.
Management of Measles Symptoms
Although there is no cure for measles, the following steps can help you or your kid feel more comfortable:
- Use medication to reduce your temperatures, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Aspirin should never be given to children, especially those with viral diseases such as measles because it increases the risk of Reye’s syndrome, an uncommon but potentially fatal brain and liver disease.
- Remain hydrated and at rest. The primary objective is to prevent dehydration, so water and Pedialyte are both appropriate for children.
- Avoid taking cold medication. Measles and colds are both respiratory diseases, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not suggest over-the-counter (OTC) cold treatments for children under the age of 4 (their use in older children is also controversial). “According to research, providing children with cold drugs did not actually alleviate symptoms. However, the medicine may be hazardous if used improperly,” says Dr. Kronman.
- Consult your physician about vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency may increase the risk of complications from measles, including pneumonia, according to research. Vitamin A supplements are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to alleviate measles symptoms and complications, particularly in impoverished nations and areas where vitamin A deficiency is suspected.
Severe Effects Associated with the Measles Virus
Infants younger than 5 and adults older than 20 are at the most risk for measles-related problems, such as pneumonia, brain swelling, convulsions, diarrhea, ear infections, and hearing loss due to brain damage.
Even with the finest care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one to three out of every 1,000 children die from measles annually (CDC). In addition, one in five measles patients will be hospitalized.
See a physician if you observe any of the following symptoms: High temperature (often about 103.5 degrees); aberrant behavior, such as hallucinations or intense agitation; lethargy (incapable of rousing a kid or eliciting a cogent response to a question); strained or rapid breathing; headaches; seizures; or vision or hearing issues.
Severe Consequences of Measles
- Ear infections
- Hearing impairment
- Brain swelling
Measles Has Lasting Effects on Health
The most prevalent cause of death from measles is pneumonia, which affects one in twenty children with measles. One in 1,000 children with measles can develop encephalitis, or brain swelling, which can cause convulsions, deafness, and brain damage.
In addition, up to 11 of every 100,000 children and adults who contract measles develop an illness of the central nervous system called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) 10 years after their initial infection.
Dr. Nolan explains, “We do not know why someone who appears to have totally recovered from measles suddenly develops this sickness.” SSPE is characterized by unexpected and odd behavioral changes, amnesia or dementia, muscle spasms or weakness, and an unsteady walking gait. Antiviral drugs can reduce the progression of the disease, but SSPE patients often die within a year or two of the disease’s onset.
Nonetheless, most youngsters recover from measles without serious consequences. As with any disease, it is best to contact a doctor whenever you are concerned about the health of your child.