What are the Symptoms of Measles?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2019
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Symptoms of measles, or rubeola, often include a runny or stuffy nose, fever, fatigue, coughing and sneezing within a week or two of being infected. The most recognizable measles symptom, maculopapular eruption, or the spotty rash from head to toe, may not occur until at least two weeks after a person is infected with the measles virus. Koplik's spots are reddish sores with white or bluish centers and these appear inside the mouths of people with measles.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is also one of the symptoms. The infection, commonly called pink eye, may involve one or both eyes and the symptoms include redness inside the eye as well as crustiness around the eyelid that temporarily closes it, especially upon waking. An additional symptom of measles in children is a middle ear infection, or otitis media. Younger children may grasp their ears and be more irritable and less active than usual, while older children with a middle ear infection may complain of earaches. Symptoms of measles in babies often include diarrhea and there may also be a loss of appetite.


Many people confuse the symptoms of measles with other conditions such as colds and flu until the rash of spots appears that starts on the head and works its way down the body. Measles is extremely contagious, but once a person has had it, he or she doesn't get it again. Medical help should be sought immediately when measles is suspected in adults or children. Measles is not usually serious, but it’s very contagious and there is a rare risk of developing the inflammatory brain condition called encephalitis. Symptoms of encephalitis include a stiff neck, fever, vomiting and headaches.

It's important to differentiate measles from German measles as they are two different diseases from totally different viruses. The medical name for measles is rubeola, while rubella refers to German measles. The symptoms of measles such as the spotty rash and signs of a cold or flu are the same in German measles. However, swollen neck glands is a common symptom of German measles that may not be experienced in measles. German measles is also different from regular measles in that it is very dangerous in pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman has German measles and passes it to her fetus, the result could be congenital rubella syndrome, which is the medical name given when a fetus is infected with the disease. Congenital rubella syndrome may cause physical and mental retardation as well as organ deformations and deafness. A blood test can determine a person’s immunity to rubella, or German measles. German measles vaccine is usually considered safe for a woman who may become pregnant if it's administered at least a month before pregnancy


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Post 1

Several years ago when I was in college, there was a measles outbreak on the campus of a major university in my state. The cause was determined to be either a defective initial/booster vaccine, or those who were never vaccinated for it. There were some sick kids on that campus.

It was so bad, in fact, that the Department of Education issued an edict saying *every* college student in the state had to show proof of a booster vaccine or recent immunization in order to register for the next quarter! Even though I know I was vaccinated because I had to have been to start school, the health department didn't have a record of me getting the vaccine. So, I had to get a red measles shot. Hurt like the devil and my arm swelled up like a spider bite at the injection site. Still, it was preferable to getting the measles at 20.

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