Measles (Rubeola): Care Instructions

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Overview

Measles, also called rubeola , is caused by a virus. It's spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or shares food or drinks. The virus can travel through the air. This means you can get measles if you're near someone who has it even if that person doesn't cough or sneeze directly on you.

Symptoms may start about 7 to 14 days after you're exposed to measles. Symptoms include a high fever, a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and a cough. The lymph glands in your neck may swell. You also may feel very tired and have diarrhea and red, sore eyes. After these symptoms start to go away, you may get tiny white spots inside your mouth, followed by a rash over your body.

Care at home, such as rest, fluids, and pain relievers, is usually the only treatment you need for measles.

If you've had measles, you can't get it again.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Avoid contact with people who have never had measles and who have not been immunized. Measles is very contagious. You can spread measles to others from 4 days before the rash appears to 4 days after the rash appears.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Get plenty of rest to help your body heal.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), to reduce fever and pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Try not to scratch the rash.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make your symptoms worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Rest your eyes often. If your eyes are sensitive to light, close the window blinds in your room, and limit the amount of time you watch screens.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • You are sensitive to light or feel very sleepy or confused.
  • You have a cough that is getting worse.
  • You are short of breath.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You feel better, but then your symptoms return.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.