What are Measles?
Measles, referred to by the up-tempo medics as rubeola, is caused by a virus. In this disorder, infection commonly comes from another person, either by way of throat or nasal discharges that could have contaminated toys or other items. Probably most cases are due to the inhalation of microscopic moisture particles, to which cling millions of measles terms.
It takes anywhere from eight to fourteen days for symptoms to develop. Measles is highly contagious, and the most common age affected is the two to fourteen year old group. Unless immunized, nearly every child contracts measles by age ten.
An early indication of measles is usually symptoms similar to those of a common cold. A fever is the usual start. This may be fairly high, ranging from 38.3 to 40.0°C (101 to 104°F.) It’s generally higher just before the skin rash appears, when it may subside. Often there is a sore throat and a discharge from the nose, much like a cold. Frequently the patient has a barking cough. Often the measles become sore, and they may discharge pus in the corners. A headache is mother possible accompanying symptom. Light may be painful. Often the lymph glands in the neck swell and are sore.
Koplik’s spots are whitish spots on a reddish background, located on the pink membrane lining the mouth and cheeks. They start toward the back opposite the molars, and may spread to cover the gums and large areas of the mouth. They are diagnostic of measles, appearing on about the third or fourth day, but generally subside as the skin rash appears.
About the fifth day of the disease, a pink, blotchy, irregular rash appears. This quickly darkens to fiery red and adjoining parts join up, often to produce a widespread redness. It starts behind the ears and face, quickly spreads to the chest and abdominal region, and finally extends to the limbs.
It usually lasts about seven days, and may be itchy. Finally, the skin comes adrift in a fine powdery form over the next two to three days, and a light brown-colored pigmentation may remain.
The germ may travel to various parts of the body and produce complications. Infected ears may occur early, and cause considerable pain. The throat and lungs may be infected, not only with the measles virus, but others are often superimposed.
The most serious is an infection of the brain called encephalitis. This may follow Vaccination against the measles virus is a vital routine for all youngsters.
Fatigue, increasing lethargy and convulsions may be the first sign. This happens to about one child in 3,000 cases. Its severity and mortality rate alone make immunization against measles highly worthwhile. It may cause serious brain damage later on.
In recent years more interest has focused on the long-term risks of measles. It’s possible for the virus to lie dormant in the brain for many years, and anywhere from one to twelve years later for its terrible effects to suddenly emerge. Within a day or two it may convert a seemingly normal child into a permanent mentally defective youngster, unable to care for himself, probably partially paralyzed and a major medical problem for the rest of time.
One has only to witness such a case to realize the value of childhood immunization. As I have seen such patients, I’m personally convinced of the absolute value of immunization during infancy.
Most cases respond well to simple home remedies. Ideally, the patient should be put to bed while the temperature and rash last. Also, isolate the patient to limit the spread of the disease. Simple sponging with cool water and drinking plenty of fluids will bring down elevated temperatures and help whisk away dead germs from the system. Chilled water, cold fruit juices, lemonade, broth are all suitable.
Soft, easily digestible food is best, but there are no restrictions. If the eyes are involved, cleansing them with saline sponges (or bits of cottonwood) will help. Protection from direct sunlight is also advisable, but darkness is not necessary.
Give TV the go-by for a few days. Warm, moist air in the room (e.g. a toiling kettle), and a simple cough linctus helps if there is a cough or stuffed-up nose and chest. Any secretions from the nose or throat are best cleansed with paper tissues that should be carefully wrapped and burnt or destroyed, since discharges are highly infectious. Care with hand washing is a good idea to avoid contamination of toys and persons.
Paracetamol elixir (consult label for dosage) will help reduce elevated temperatures, but do not overdose.
What about the outcome? Uncomplicated cases invariably do well. But if symptoms persist, or if any of the complications mentioned do occur (especially encephalitis), medical attention from the doctor is essential, and the outcome will depend on how the patient responds to treatment.