Measles is caused by a virus, so antibiotics are not effective against it. To be sure to protect your child against measles, it's important to get him or her vaccinated. Read on for more information about the measles vaccine.
A highly contagious virus is to blame for measles, or Rubeola. The infection spreads through airborne droplets when someone who is infected with the virus sneezes or coughs.
Measles is a respiratory infection that can have deadly consequences. The first symptoms of the disease mimic the common cold: runny nose, hacking cough, and red watery eyes. However, measles also causes a fever and a skin rash of red or brownish-red blotches that start at the forehead and spread downward to cover the body. Koplik's spots, which are tiny red spots with white centers that appear inside the mouth, also indicate the presence of measles.
Because a virus causes measles, antibiotics are not effective. The virus must run its course, which takes about two weeks.
Complications of measles can include brain infection and pneumonia. However, these occur more commonly in malnourished or immune-deficient people.
Who's at Risk for Measles
Children who have not been immunized against measles are at greatest risk. Your child's chance of contracting measles is very slight if he or she has been properly vaccinated.
Defensive Measures Against Measles
Stick to your physician -- or state -- recommended vaccination schedule for the best protection against measles. The live weakened measles virus vaccine (the only type currently available) is part of routine MMR immunizations that are given at 12 to 15 months of age and 4 to 6 years of age.
Infants are typically protected from measles for six to eight months after birth, thanks to immunity passed on from the mother. However, if there is a measles outbreak or if you will be taking your infant to an area of the world where measles is still prevalent, the vaccine can be given at 9 months of age, but this shot should still be followed by the regularly scheduled MMR vaccinations when the child is 12 to 15 months old and 4 to 6 years old.
If someone in your immediate family has measles, chances are good that your unvaccinated child will get it, too. Isolation is the key to prevention in such cases, as is following your physician's recommendations. In most cases, you or your child can take acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat the fever that accompanies measles, but children shouldn't take aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.
Children can easily spread mumps to other children through everyday play. That's why it's so important to get vaccinated. See the next page for more information.
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