Dr. M. J. Bazos, Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Measles is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It is highly contagious and is spread by direct contact or by airborne respiratory droplets. Infection usually occurs 7–14 days after exposure to the virus. Outbreaks were common 20–30 years ago but have decreased since vaccinations have become routine. Anyone can be affected, but it is more common in children. Complications can include ear infections, pneumonia, strep throat, and meningitis. The course of the disease is usually 4–10 days.

Living With Your Diagnosis
The first symptom to appear is fever, followed by fatigue and loss of appetite. Later a runny nose, sneezing, a dry hacking cough, and sensitivity to light will develop. Tiny, bluish gray spots appear in the mouth, opposite the molars, and in the throat, followed by a reddish rash that starts on the forehead and around the ears and then spreads to the rest of the body. When the rash reaches the feet, it starts to fade. The rash can leave a brownish discoloration that disappears in 7–10 days.

The patient with measles should be isolated for 4 days after the onset of the rash, and should rest in bed until the fever and rash are gone. Saline eye drops can be used for the eye irritation, and sunglasses can be use when light sensitivity is severe. Use nonaspirin products for the fever. Never give aspirin to a child younger than 16 years who has a viral infection because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Antibiotics will not be necessary unless complications occur, such as an ear infection or pneumonia. No special diet is needed, but fluid intake should be increased.

The DOs
• Avoid contact with others for at least 4 days after the rash develops.
• Rest in bed until the fever subsides.
• Wash hands frequently.
• Dispose of tissues in a paper or plastic bag at the bedside.
• Use only nonaspirin products for fever and pain.
• Use a cool-mist vaporizer to soothe the cough and thin secretions. Remember to change the water and clean the unit daily.
• Drink extra fluids including tea, cola, and fruit juices.
• Use saline eye drops for irritation and sunglasses for light sensitivity.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t give aspirin to a child younger than 16 years during a viral infection because aspirin use has been associated with Reye’s syndrome.
• Don’t send a child to school for 7–10 days after the fever and rash subside.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If a sore throat and high fever develop during the infection.
• If an earache develops.
• If there is an increase in drowsiness or weakness.
• If breathing becomes difficult, or there is chest pain and a cough that produces thick yellow sputum.
• If a severe headache develops.

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