By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Measles is like most other viral illnesses and has no specific treatment. Once the rash starts, only rest and isolation along with treatment of symptoms can be undertaken to let the episode pass off on its own.
If there are no complications due to measles, the symptoms will usually disappear within 7-10 days. Most physicians would watch out for complications of measles during the course of the disease.
Supportive and symptomatic management of measles include:-
Plenty of fluids and liquids. Usually water, fruit juice, milk etc. helps. Patients are advised to avoid soft sugary drinks and caffeine rich drinks.
For fever, aches and pains, paracetamol or ibuprofen is prescribed. For children under the age of 16 aspirin should not be given. Aspirin in children with viral ailments carries a risk of a severe liver damage called Reye’s syndrome. In children paracetamol or ibuprofen may be given in liquid form.
Patients should be kept in a closed and darkened room to ease the sensitivity to light and reduce eye discomfort that is common in children with measles.
There may be secretions and dried off crusts around the eyes. These can be eased by using damp, sterile cotton wool. One piece of cotton wool should be used per wipe for each eye. The eye should be cleaned from inner to outer lid.
Usually a cough is present in patients and children with measles. Cough medications, however, are of little or no help and usually not advised in children under the age of six. Children over 12 months old may benefit from a teaspoon of lemon juice and two teaspoons of honey in a glass of warm water. This will soothe the throat. Honey should not be given to babies under the age of 12 months for risk of a severe form of paralysis.
Antibiotics are of no help in treating a viral infection. However, these may be prescribed to treat any secondary bacterial infections.
Local skin moisturizers are prescribed in case of itchy rash. The rash is usually non-itchy and this may not be required.
In severe cases of measles, especially with complications, hospital treatment may be required.
Vitamin A supplements may prevent some of the serious complications arising from a measles infection. These may be recommended for children under two years old especially those with vitamin A deficiency.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Jan 24, 2013