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Measles in Babies & Children

Symptoms of measles

When measles begins, you might see:

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Symptoms of measles

When measles begins, you might see:

  • your little one has a high temperature
  • runny or blocked nose and sneezing
  • their eyes are red and may be sensitive to light
  • watery eyes, swollen eyelids
  • greyish white spots in their mouth and throat
  • aches and pains
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness, low energy levels

It's important to contact your GP right away if you suspect that your child has measles, so they can confirm (or rule out) that’s the case.

After a few days, look for:

  • a blotchy rash of brownish-red spots, or slightly raised spots that may be joined together, usually appearing on the head or neck
  • the rash spreading over their whole body
  • the rash can be itchy for some children

 

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How long do measles last?

For most children, the illness normally lasts around 7-10 days.

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How long do measles last?

For most children, the illness normally lasts around 7-10 days.

Measles can be spread quite easily. Children are most contagious when they have symptoms such as fevers, runny nose, and a cough, as measles can pass through droplets in the air. It's best to keep them out of school or nursery for at least four days from the appearance of the rash.

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When to call the doctor

Measles is highly infectious, so it’s easy for the infection to spread to other people quickly if they haven’t been vaccinated. For this reason, if you think your child has measles, you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

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When to call the doctor

Measles is highly infectious, so it’s easy for the infection to spread to other people quickly if they haven’t been vaccinated. For this reason, if you think your child has measles, you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

It is also important to monitor your child to see if they have any other symptoms which could indicate there is a more serious issue developing. These symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, fits (convulsions), confusion or drowsiness.

For more information on measles complications, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/complications/.

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Treatments

As a parent, it’s only natural to be worried if your child has measles. Although there’s no specific treatment, it usually clears up after seven to ten days, and there are lots of things you can do to help your little one.

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Treatments

As a parent, it’s only natural to be worried if your child has measles. Although there’s no specific treatment, it usually clears up after seven to ten days, and there are lots of things you can do to help your little one. GP’s will recommend resting at home until your child is feeling better.

Do they have a fever?
Measles also can cause children to feel feverish so you may want to keep an eye on their temperature. To help you keep note of how they’re doing, we’ve prepared a fever diary.

Download our fever diary to keep track of their temperature (PDF)

Are they suffering from aches and pains, too?
Aches and pains can make it hard for your little one to settle and get the rest they need. Here are some options that can help.

  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to reduce high temperature (fever) and relieve any aches and pains if your child is uncomfortable.
  • Try a paracetamol-based medicine for pain and fever relief like CALPOL® Infant Suspension. It’s suitable for babies over 2 months, weighing over 4kg and not premature.
  • Are they 6 years or older? You could try a paracetamol-based medicine for older children, like CALPOL® SIXPLUS™ Suspension.
  • Alternatively, you can try an ibuprofen-based medicine, like CALPROFEN® Ibuprofen suspension, which can be given to children over 3 months and weighing over 5kg, for pain and fever relief. It starts to work on fever in just 15 minutes and keeps on working for up to 8 hours.

Are they suffering from cold-like symptoms?

If your child is experiencing cold-like symptoms such as a cough or runny nose, try to create an environment which has a lot of moisture. This can be done by sitting in a hot, steamy bathroom. Typical cold remedies such as warm honey and lemon can also be used to treat a cough, but honey should not be given to children until they are over 1.

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3 Handy tips for looking after your little one
  • Measles can make your little one feel very sensitive to the light, so try closing their curtains or turning lights down low.
  • You might find your child has crustiness around their eyes. Use damp cotton wool to wipe it away, wiping from the inner to the outer eyelid. Use a new piece of cotton wool with each wipe.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of water. Offer them lots of drinks to keep them hydrated.

 

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Corona Virus

At the moment it can be hard to know what to do if your child is unwell. It's important to trust your instincts and get medical help if you need it. If you think your child may be suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, the NHS recommends getting a PCR test to check if they have coronavirus as soon as possible. For more information on COVID-19, visit the NHS website.


Dawn Kelly
Health Visitor

Dawn is a qualified paediatric nurse, health visitor and lecturer with over 25 years’ experience. She’s written widely about child health and development and has a wealth of knowledge about childhood illnesses and advising parents on issues such as weaning and sleep. Her three daughters also put her knowledge to the test!
This HCP does not endorse Calpol. 

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