Measles is a highly infectious illness caused by a virus. It is spread via respiratory droplets, meaning you can catch it if an infected person sneezes, coughs or even spends time in the same room as you. The illness can be dangerous for small children and babies. It can cause complications such as pneumonia, ear infections and, rarely, inflammation in the brain. Because measles is vaccine-preventable, it is no longer a common health risk in Australia.


The symptoms of measles start approximately 10 days after the child is infected. Initially, children feel tired and unwell. Other symptoms include:

  1. Conjunctivitis (red, irritated, weepy eyes)
  2. Runny nose
  3. Fever
  4. Koplik spots (white spots inside the mouth)

After 3-5 days, the child develops a red and blotchy rash. It starts on the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body. It usually lasts 4-7 days. A person is infectious from just before symptoms begin, until approximately four days after the rash appears.


Currently, there is no treatment for measles. However, there are ways to make your child feel more comfortable. Medications such as paracetamol can help relieve the discomfort of fever. Resting, and staying well hydrated, can also help. It is important to keep your child away from others until at least 4 days after the rash appeared. Preventing infection is done through vaccination. The Australian Government National Immunisation Program recommends children receive two vaccines against measles: at 12 months and 18 months of age. According to the Better Health Channel, once a child is fully vaccinated they have 99% immunity against infection. Women hoping to conceive should also be vaccinated against measles, because contracting measles when pregnant can cause miscarriage, or other health problems. If you are concerned your child has come into contact with someone with measles, see your GP immediately as there are ways to reduce the risk of infection. If you are concerned your child has measles, see your GP for diagnosis and further advice. Be sure to inform the receptionist about your concerns so she can keep your child in a separate waiting area.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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