What Every Parent Should Know About Measles

Hand of newborn baby with measles rash on white sheet

Measles is a very contagious respiratory infection.  It can cause a total-body skin rash coupled with flu-like symptoms. While it’s not common for children in the U.S. to catch it anymore, it is still possible. There are still millions of measles cases every year around the world.

Luckily, once your child has had measles, their body builds up a resistance to the virus. It’s unlikely (but again not impossible) that your child will get it again after the first time. The danger is that when they contract it, it can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening complications—from pneumonia to encephalitis.

Here are the most important things you need to know about measles:

Measles Can Be Serious

Because of the widespread immunization against measles in the 2000s, most people underestimate measles now. They think it’s just a fever and a slight rash that should go away in a couple of days. While this can be the case with adults, for children younger than five years old, measles can cause severe health complications. 

And what’s worse is that you can’t know in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be. One in five people in the U.S. gets hospitalized for measles, and one out every 1,000 will develop brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage. Finally, one to three out of that 1,000 will die despite receiving the best care. 

Measles is Highly Contagious

Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When that person cough or sneezes around ten people, it is possible that 9 of those people will get infected. Your child is vulnerable just being in a room that someone with measles was in over two hours ago.

Most people who have measles won’t show symptoms until days later, and by then, they will have infected many vulnerable people already. 

Symptoms of Measles

The first sign of measles is a hacking cough, runny nose (coryza), high fever, and red and watery eyes (conjunctivitis). While those are pretty similar to the flu, another sign you can look for in your child are Koplik spots, which are tiny red spots with blue-white centers inside their mouth. 

This all happens before the rash, which is the most telltale symptom of measles. The rash will appear about 3 to 5 days after the initial symptoms, along with a fever as high as 104°F. The red or reddish-brown rash usually starts as flat red spots on the forehead before it spread to the whole face and then their bodies. 

Vaccination is the Best Form of Protection

While there’s no way of telling how your child will respond to a measles infection—unless they have other respiratory conditions— the best way to be sure they won’t be harmed is by getting them vaccinated. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles.

Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection:

  • The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age
  • The second dose at 4 through 6 years of age

If your family is traveling overseas, the vaccine recommendations are as follows:

  • If your baby is 6 through 11 months old, they should receive one dose of MMR vaccine before leaving.
  • If your child is 12 months or older, they will need two doses of MMR vaccine (separated by at least 28 days) before departure.

Another vaccine, the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV), protects against four diseases and is also available to children 12 months through 12 years of age.


Measles can be a serious threat to the health and safety of your children. There’s no telling whether they’ll be lucky enough that the disease doesn’t affect them badly or not. When it comes to your child’s health, you don’t have to leave it up to chance because measles is a preventable disease.

Your Kid’s Urgent Care offers superior and convenient urgent care pediatric services to all children who enter our offices. Whether you need treatment or flu shots, in Vestavia, Florida, we are the best place to go. Avoid the hassle of the emergency room if you can help it. And with us, your child’s safety is a priority.

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