Measles is reemerging as a problem childhood infection. Spot the symptoms and get your child seen to as soon as possible.
What is measles?
Measles is caused by a viral infection. The symptoms of the illness appear around 10 days after your baby is first infected, which makes it highly infectious as it’s often passed on before you’ve realised your baby is ill. ‘Thanks to vaccination programmes, measles is quite rare,’ says Dr David Elliman from The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
‘However, outbreaks still occur each year and about 6% of these cases will lead to more serious complications.’ The virus is spread much like colds, in tiny droplets of water that are spread through coughs and sneezes, and which your baby will breathe in.
What are the symptoms of measles?
The first signs of measles will be a cold and fever, so many mums might not realise their baby has the illness until the tell-tale spotty rash appears. ‘He may develop a temperature, be irritable and fractious, and go off his food,’ says David. ‘Small, greyish-white spots, known as koplik spots, about the size of a grain of sugar, will appear on the inside of his mouth. This will be followed by a spotty, red rash which starts behind the ears before spreading to the rest of his body.’
What can you do?
Your baby should recover from measles after around a week
If you’re worried your baby has measles, call your GP for advice. ‘Don’t automatically bring him in as if he’s infectious, as he may spread it to other people in the surgery,’ says David. Explain any symptoms over the phone and your GP will be able to tell you the best thing to do.
Treatment involves plenty of rest and fluids and you can give baby paracetamol if he has a fever. Your baby should recover after around a week.
‘Children can receive protection against measles by getting the MMR vaccine at 12-13 months,’ says David. Very young babies often have natural protection passed over to them from you when they were in the womb.
Call your GP if...
Contact your GP straight away if seven to 10 days after the appearance of the rash, your baby gets a headache, becomes drowsy or vomits – it can be a sign of encephalitis, a serious and potentially fatal complication.