German Measles (Rubella)

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Is your baby covered in red spots, rashes or blotches? Does he have swollen lymph nodes and a mild fever? He may have German measles, also know as rubella

Dealing with German measles is never pleasant  – expect lots of sleepless nights and crying, probably from both you and your baby – it’s important to emphasise that this is usually a really mild condition in babies and often requires no medical treatment whatsoever.

Having said that, it can be really dangerous for pregnant women as it affects the unborn child, so keeping your baby away from others is important until the infection passes.

What is it?

German measles is a non-serious condition that’s caused by the rubella virus. The bad news is that it’s contagious, although not as much as chickenpox and measles are.

What are the symptoms?

Just like regular measles, German measles is usually identified by distinctive red-pink skin rashes.

‘Other symptoms are similar to those that occur during a cold,’ says Professor Mitch Blair, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. ‘You may notice your baby has swollen glands and lymph nodes (especially on the back of the neck) and a sore head and runny nose.’ A mild fever is another tell-tale sign.

How is it treated?

You should always telephone your GP if you suspect that you or your child has rubella for advice on treatment.

‘Don’t see the GP unless advised to do so as rubella doesn’t usually require medical treatment,’ says Professor Blair. Once your baby is ill, there isn’t a huge amount you can do. OK, that’s not the answer you wanted. But reconcile yourself with the fact that the symptoms normally pass within seven to 10 days.

Check with your GP about which medicines are safe to give to your baby to reduce the fever and treat any aches or pains, if you think he really needs it.

How serious can it get?

It’s usually a mild infection and doesn’t have any major affects aside from the symptoms mentioned earlier.  ‘However, it’s contagious and can become serious if a pregnant woman catches the infection during the first 16 weeks of her pregnancy,’ advises Professor Blair.

If a pregnant woman has German measles, it can affect the development of the baby. When born, the baby may suffer from eye problems, such as cataracts and even deafness. Heart abnormalities can also crop up and, worst case scenario, brain damage.

Keep in mind that cases of German measles are really rare in the UK these days, thanks to the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The injection has made a huge difference in working towards eliminating the measles virus altogether.

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