Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. It's now uncommon in the UK because of the effectiveness of vaccination.
Anyone can get measles if they haven't been vaccinated or they haven't had it before, although it's most common in young children.
The infection usually clears in around 7-10 days.
The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after you're infected. These can include:
A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.
Read more about the symptoms of measles.
You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles.
It's best to phone before your visit as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.
You should also see your GP if you've been in close contact with someone who has measles and you've not been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven't had the infection before - even if you don't have any symptoms.
Measles can be unpleasant, but will usually pass in about 7-10 days without causing any further problems.
Once you've had measles, your body builds up immunity (resistance) to the virus and it's highly unlikely you'll get it again.
Read more about the complications of measles.
The measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
You can easily catch measles by breathing in these droplets or, if the droplets have settled on a surface, by touching the surface and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth. The virus can survive on surfaces for a few hours.
People with measles are infectious from when the symptoms develop until about four days after the rash first appears.
Measles can be prevented by having the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
This is given in two doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The first dose is given when your child is around 13 months old and a second dose is given before your child starts school.
Adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they haven't been fully vaccinated before. Ask your GP about having the vaccination.
If the MMR vaccine isn't suitable for you, a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) can be used if you're at immediate risk of catching measles.
Read more about preventing measles.
There are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the infection, including:
In severe cases, especially if there are complications, you or your child may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
Read more about treating measles.
Copyright © 2023 Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust