Measles is a very contagious illness, but for the great majority of people, not nearly as deadly as the media tends to let us think. Measles, or any other virus, is not the enemy! Your internal terrain, and your immune capability are the important factors in determining your health and ability to deal with the outbreak of any viral or bacteria infection.
For most people, particularly in modern western society, measles is a mild illness and rarely do any complications develop, although that possibility is there. In poorer nations where the foods supply is limited, and sanitary conditions are not optimal, the measles virus can cause more serious complications due to the possibility of children being undernourished and vitamin deficient. Their ‘internal terrain’ is compromised and they are more susceptible to illness and further complications.
Measles is certainly an extremely contagious disease. It is a member of the Paramyxovirus family. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected child or adult, and is spread by airborne droplets. The virus can live in the air for up to 2 hours, so even if an infected person has left the room, the virus is still alive and active!
Incubation period is between 10 to 14 days. During this period the virus is replicating and you or your child would be starting to feel tired, and generally unwell. During this stage children are often a bit naughty or acting a bit irrationally, as they do feel ‘off’ but can’t verbalise what is happening, as nothing is specifically showing up. They just feel tired and irritable.
Because the initial symptoms of measles are a runny nose, sore red eyes, low grade fever and a cough, the most obvious self-diagnosis is a head cold.
So there you are, infected with the measles virus, thinking you have a cold, going to work or to school when all along you can be infected with the virus, and at this stage you are infectious to others and you do not know it. The most contagious period is for the 4 days prior to getting the rash, when you are thinking you just have a bit of a head cold!
The white spots, called Koplik’s spots, may develop at this stage, and are often the diagnostic tool that determines the illness is measles. The spots develop in the mouth,and on the mucus membranes of the cheeks. After 4 to 7 days the fever will start to rise and the rash will appear. The rash starts around the hair line and the ears, and spreads to the face and then all over the body. You or your child can remain infectious until around day 4 of the rash. The rash usually lasts for up to 7 days.
Most children recover from measles without any complications, however measles has the potential to become a serious illness and lead to secondary bacterial infections. Most vulnerable are the immunocompromised, and very young babies. Fortunately babies generally have very good protection from their mother and will have good immunity passed on to them for 6 months, and can be protected for up to 12 months after birth with continual breastfeeding. It is extremely rare to see a tiny baby with the measles
The interesting thing is that with measles, along with other childhood illnesses including polio, the initial symptoms are that of a cold. You really are unaware that any other virus may be brewing.
So what to do?
First thing is to recognise and honour the symptoms that your body is showing you. So often we ‘soldier on’ when we really do need to stop and let our body heal. Any symptom, no matter how slight, is a message that change is occurring in your body. Now how far any illness will progress is determined by your immune strength, your diet and lifestyle, and if you have ever had any prior exposure to the particular virus you are brewing, and so have some immunity to it. It is rare to get a repeat dose of the measles, however, as scientists have now isolated 21 strains of measles, it is certainly possible to become infected with a different strain.
Symptoms of Measles
- Runny nose
- Feeling unwell
- Sore, sensitive and red eyes
- White spots in mouth
- Skin rash
So there you are, with your cough, a runny nose, feeling tired and unwell, a bit of a fever. What do you do? Don’t just soldier on! The body is letting you know it is timely to add some vitamins, herbs and rest into your daily routine. Irrespective of what viral infection your body is fighting off, these symptoms need to be addressed.
- Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.
- Include vitamin C, Zinc and additional vitamin A.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake
- Make chicken soup or a chicken broth with ginger, garlic and onion. Keep hydrated with fluids
- Take some echinacea.
Vitamin A supplements have been shown to help prevent the more serious complications from occurring.
If the symptoms continue or the fever is high, you need to determine if you or your child has more than a cold brewing. Have a look inside the mouth. If you see any white spots, or notice that a rash is developing around the ears and on the face, go and see your doctor. It is even hard for a doctor to determine what virus is developing, until the Koplik’s spots are visible, or a rash is appearing.
Although taking an antibiotic won’t help treat the measles, as it is a virus, often doctors will prescribe an antibiotic if the presenting symptoms seem to be heading towards any of the secondary infections. That is understandable as some of the complications are ear infections, croup, pneumonia, encephalitis.
Although there are many more herbs that can be taken, and some wonderful homeopathic remedies, for these treatments you do need to see your natural health practitioner. Acupressure and aromatherapy also have much to offer as part of the healing process.