Measles are an unusually catching disease, and the cause is a virus that spreads throughout the entire body, though it mainly attacks the skin and the respiratory system. Incubation takes 10 to 14 days.
The symptoms described below relate to a characteristic case of measles.
The first day or two a chid is starting to feel bad; the temperature is elevated, the nose ”leaks”, and the eyes are red and full of tears. The child has a dry cough and may have diarrhea. On the third day the temperature drops, and white dots (that look like salt grain) appear. On the fourth and fifth days the temperature rises again and a characteristic rash on the skin appears. The rash first occus on the forehead and behind the ears in the form of small (2 to 3 mm), red and somewhat elevated stains. The stains gradually extend to other parts of the head and body (but, usually, not to the limbs). As the expand, those stains become bigger and merge together. On the sixth day the rash begins to disappear, and after a week all the symptoms disappear.
Some children with measles will have headaches and are lethargic (sleepy). In rare cases, they may be sensitive to light. Although this is not usually a cause for concern, tell it to the doctor.
Measles are much less frequent than before, which is the result of a mandatory vaccination program.
What to do?
If you suspect that your child has measles, you must report it to the doctor because the health authorities register all the cases. If it is an individual case, your doctor will probably visit you; in the case of a local epidemic, a diagnosis will be sufficient and a description of the symptoms over the phone. However, at the first sign of any complications – such as ear problems or symptoms of encephalitis – call your doctor immediately.
Self-help: there are several ways to help a child relieve a disease and protect him from possible dangers. Since measles are unusually catching, there is practically no point in trying to take any measures in order to protect other family members from getting sick (in fact, they may already be infected).
Professional help: measles are a viral disease, so your doctor will not prescribe antibiotics because they do not act on viruses. (However, antibiotics are effective against bacteria and are therefore used in the event of complications such as ear problems or pneumonia – see pneumonia in children.) In most cases, the child will be healthy after 10 days and will be lifelong immune to measles.