The measles is a respiratory virus that causes a full body rash, bluish-white spots in the mouth, high grade fevers, coughing, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes), a sore throat, and a runny nose. It is most common in small children, especially those not vaccinated at the recommended one year and four year marks.
It can cause serious complications, most commonly bacterial ear infections, pneumonia, and brain inflammation (encephalitis), among others. The virus typically shows up about two weeks after contact and will go away on its own after two or three weeks of active symptoms. Like all viruses, there is no cure or guaranteed treatment regimen for measles once they have been contracted. There are, however, things that can be done to ease the illness.
Preventing the Measles
Getting the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent the measles. Since measles is transferred through spit and mucus, a cough or a sneeze is enough to spread it around. The virus can last for several hours just resting on a surface, so if a known case of measles has been in the same area, it is extremely important to wash hands and sanitize doorknobs, tables, counters, and anything else the cells might come to rest on. If an unvaccinated person does come into contact with a contagious person, getting immunized within seventy two hours after contact may still prevent it altogether.
Since one of the more dangerous symptoms of the measles is an extremely high grade fever, pushing 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, a doctor may recommend taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drug (such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or naproxen). This not only makes the patient more comfortable, as fevers can cause extreme sweating, chills, and hallucinations. The body can more easily combat the other effects of the measles once the fever breaks, as less effort is being exerted to get it back to a comfortable temperature.
Treating Cold Symptoms
Other uncomfortable aspects of the measles are the sore throat and racking cough that can turn into pneumonia, bronchitis, or the croup. When combined with a runny nose, breathing becomes harder, thereby making the throat even more sore, the lips chapped, and sleeping difficult. Using a humidifier and some chapstick will ease the dry air that makes breathing painful, as well as hydrating the throat and gentling coughing.
Once the coughing and fever are under control, sleep will come more easily. It is especially important to get plenty of rest, so the body can recover and rally its strength, directing it at recovering from and combatting the virus, instead of being totally distracted by the symptoms it causes.
Getting plenty of fluids is also extremely important. Water is the best option, although real fruit juices will also give the body extra vitamin C, which boosts immune function as well. A cool drink can also soothe sore throats, making it a double whammy.
Additionally, vitamin A supplements can help ease symptoms, as well as help keep the virus at bay in the first place. People, children especially, who don’t get enough Vitamin A in their diet or have a Vitamin A deficiency due to some other cause are more likely to catch measles than those who don’t. Since bacterial infections become more likely (especially ear infections) antibiotics may be prescribed, despite its ineffectiveness on measles, to curb outside infections.