Measles: Everything You Need to Know
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that continues to afflict thousands around the world. With symptoms ranging from fever and cough to rash and fatigue, this disease can be serious, even deadly, especially for young children. But what causes measles? How is it diagnosed? What are the most effective treatments available? In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore everything you need to know about measles so that you can stay informed and protect yourself and your loved ones.
What Is Measles?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system. The virus can spread through direct contact with an infected person or through the air and can cause severe respiratory illness. Measles is most commonly seen in children, but adults can also be infected. There is no specific treatment for measles, but early diagnosis and supportive care can help reduce the severity of symptoms.
Symptoms of Measles
There are a few key measles symptoms that are worth knowing about. These include:
- High fever
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
Measles also causes a characteristic rash that typically begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. This measles rash is made up of small red bumps that may be accompanied by itching. In some cases, measles can also lead to more serious complications like pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
The former is a serious lung infection. It can be deadly, especially for young children and infants. Measles is one of the most common causes of pneumonia. Pneumonia can be diagnosed with a physical exam, chest x-ray, or blood test. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and plenty of rest. Hospitalization may also be necessary.
Encephalitis occurs when the virus that causes measles enters the brain and spinal cord, causing inflammation. Symptoms of encephalitis include headache, high fever, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, and confusion. In severe cases, encephalitis can lead to seizures, paralysis, coma, and death.
Causes of Measles
The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread through coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread through contact with infected mucus or saliva. Measles is most commonly spread through close contact with someone who has the virus. The virus can live for up to two hours in an enclosed space, such as a room, and can be passed on to others during this time.
Measles is most commonly seen in children aged between five and nine years old, although it can affect people of any age. Several factors can increase the risk of contracting measles, including:
- Living in or travelling to an area where measles is common
- Not being vaccinated against measles
- Having a weakened immune system
Here are a few ways to diagnose measles:
- The most common way to diagnose measles is by looking at the rash. Measles causes a distinctive, red rash that starts on the face and spreads down the body. The rash is made up of tiny dots and usually lasts for four to seven days.
- A doctor may also order a blood test to look for antibodies to the measles virus. Antibodies are proteins that fight infection. A positive result means you have been infected with measles at some point in your life.
- Another way to diagnose measles is through a throat swab. This involves using a long cotton swab to get a sample of fluid from the back of the throat. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
There is no specific cure for measles, but there are a few things that can be done to help manage the symptoms and make the disease more bearable. Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms and preventing complications.
- Rest is important for helping the body recover from measles. Bed rest may be recommended for people who have a poor immune response or are pregnant. For children, some schools allow them to stay home until the rash has gone away.
- Measles can cause dehydration, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Fluids such as water, clear soups, and sports drinks can help prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can worsen dehydration.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to help reduce fever. Aspirin should not be given to children under 18 due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Antihistamines may also be prescribed to help with itchiness from the rash.
- Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for immune function, vision, and reproduction. Vitamin A supplementation is recommended for all children with measles.
In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary so that patients can receive IV fluids and oxygen therapy if needed. In some instances, steroids may also be given to help reduce inflammation in the airways, which can make breathing difficult.
Measles can be prevented with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. This vaccine is safe and effective and is recommended for all children. Adults who did not receive the MMR vaccine as children should also get vaccinated. However, vaccination is not ideal for everyone. You should avoid getting the MMR vaccine if you are pregnant or if you have a compromised immune system. Finally, if you have any allergies to gelatin or neomycin, it is best to avoid taking the vaccine.
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe symptoms in children and adults alike. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, potential causes, diagnosis, and treatment options so that appropriate action can be taken as soon as possible. Vaccination remains the best way to prevent measles infections, but if it has already been contracted then prompt medical attention should be sought for a speedy recovery.
If you think you or someone close to you have measles symptoms and require a blood test, book Measles Virus IgG/IgM Antibody test at Metropolis. A prominent diagnostic chain in India, we have thousands of tests available to help identify a wide range of diseases and conditions. Contact us today!