Measles – Symptoms and Causes

Children's Dermatology Blog - Measles - Symptoms and Causes

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that causes fever, runny nose, cough, and a characteristic blotchy rash. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of measles so you can identify it early and get treatment. Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family, and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the lining of the throat and lungs and then spreads throughout the body.  There is no specific treatment for measles, but complications can be serious. The virus can also live on surfaces for up to two hours, which means it’s easy to catch if you are near someone who is infected. Measles is most seen in children, but adults can also get it.

Symptoms of measles typically appear about seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Early symptoms include fever, often as high as 104°F (40°C), cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis). These are followed by the appearance of the rash, which usually begins at the hairline and spreads down across the face and body. The rash generally lasts for three to five days.

After a week or two, most people will start to feel better. However, some may experience complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain). These complications can be serious — even life-threatening

Complications from measles are more common in children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old. Complications include:

Encephalitis – this is when the virus infects the brain. This can lead to convulsions, partial paralysis, or developmental delay; one out of every 1,000 children with measles develops encephalitis.

Pneumonia – this occurs when the lungs become infected with the virus; approximately six percent of children with measles will get pneumonia.

Ear Infections – measles can cause ear infections which sometimes leads to permanent hearing loss.

Diarrhea – up to eight percent of people with measles will experience severe diarrhea which can lead to dehydration.


Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that causes fever, runny nose, and a telltale rash of tiny red spots. It can have serious complications, especially in young children and adults over 20 years old. Measles used to be common in children before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963 but has made a comeback in recent years due to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. If you or your child has never been vaccinated against measles, it’s important to know the facts about measles symptoms as well as possible complications. The best treatment for measles is prevention because there is no specific treatment once the infection happens. Supportive care to ease your symptoms until recovery is important.

Get vaccinated against measles today to protect yourself and your community and if you or your child develop symptoms of measles, be sure to see a board-certified dermatologist right away.

We invite you to fill out our contact form or call Children’s Dermatology at (949) 679-1990 to schedule a consultation today. We will be happy to answer any questions and help determine an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment options for your family.

Children's Dermatology

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Children’s Dermatology is a premier dermatology center for all your pediatric skincare needs. We are located in the city of Orange and serve patients across Orange County, CA. Our clinic is led by a board-certified dermatologist, and fellowship-trained pediatric dermatologist, Dr. Heidi Goodarzi MD, FAAD.