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Measles (rubeola) is a highly contagious respiratory infection. In fact, 90% of people exposed to measles will develop the disease, unless they are immune. Measles is caused by a virus and can be a serious or even fatal illness for young children. However, since vaccinations were introduced in 1963, measles has become rare in developed countries, including the United States.
Signs and Symptoms
Measles is associated with the following signs and symptoms:
What Causes It?
Measles is caused by a virus (paramyxovirus) that is spread through the air or by contact with infectious droplets from the nose, mouth, or throat. You can contract the disease by merely being in the same room as an infected person. Most people get measles because they were never immunized. Once someone has had measles, that person has immunity for life.
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing measles:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Anyone with a fever and unexplained rash should see a health care provider. Your health care provider will do a physical examination, checking for Koplik's spots or the rash that usually appears several days after the spots have disappeared. To help confirm the diagnosis, your health care provider may order a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies against the measles virus.
Vaccination is the key to preventing measles. Since the 1980s, the live, weakened measles vaccine, has been available as the combination vaccine of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). Health care staff administer the MMR vaccine in two doses -- one at age 12 - 15 months, and the second at age 5 - 12 years. Of those who receive the vaccine, more than 95% have lifelong immunity.
Rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and treatment to relieve symptoms are adequate if there are no complications.
The following medications may be used to manage measles:
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Nutrition and Supplements
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs are generally a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted. The herbs listed below are to help support immunity while providing antibacterial and antiviral support.
To reduce itching from the rash, use witch hazel (Hamamelis virginia) topically or add oatmeal to a bath.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for measles based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
Measles is most often an uncomplicated childhood illness. The most common complication of measles in children is acute otitis media, which occurs in 7 - 9% of cases. However, infants and adults, especially those who are malnourished or whose immune system is weak, may develop complications that involve the respiratory system, central nervous system, or digestive system, and may need to be hospitalized. In a small percentage of cases, measles can be fatal.
Measles in a pregnant woman can result in premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, or low birth weight babies. Infants of mothers with active measles should receive immune globulin at birth. Pregnant women should not be vaccinated.
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Review Date: 12/28/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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