Alphabetic Guide to Child Care - Measles


Measles is by far the most dangerous of the common childhood diseases because of its possible complications, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and severe secondary staphylococcus infection. Fortunately, widespread protection is available in the live measles vaccine, which should be given to every child over one year of age.


Measles, a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, has an incubation period of one to two weeks. The most noticeable symptom is the rash that begins on the head and face within a few days after the onset of the disease, and gradually erupts all over the body, blending into big red patches. Other symptoms include fever up to 104° F or higher, a severe cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, inflammation of the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane on the inner part of the eyelid and extending over the front of the eyeball), sensitivity of the eyes to light, enlarged lymph nodes, and a generalized sick feeling.

Any child who has contracted measles should be seen by a physician and watched carefully for possible complications. Moreover, if he is of school age, the school should be promptly notified. This, of course, is true for any contagious disease.


Measles can be treated only symptomatically. During the incubation period, an injection of gamma globulin will lessen the severity of the disease, or occasionally prevent it. If there are other children at home besides the affected one, they should also receive gamma globulin injections. Antibiotics are of no help unless there is a secondary bacterial infection.

It is now suspected that vaccinations given in the United States and Canada during the 1960s and 1970s were not triggering permanent immunity to measles. Anyone who has been vaccinated during that period should consult his or her physician about reimmunization. The number of cases, including adult cases, of measles has risen dramatically. This is partly because of the need for revaccination in adults; it is also because many parents are not having their children immunized. Measles can be fatal and vaccination can protect against needless deaths from this preventable disease.

All parents should make certain that their children are vaccinated against this potentially serious disease. See IMMUNIZATION .

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: