Measles Symptoms

Measles infection takes around 10 days to manifest as apparent symptoms. The symptoms may last for around 2 weeks before finally resolving on their own. The measles rash usually appears a few days afterwards.

Initial symptoms

Symptoms of measles infection in its initial phases include:-

  • Influenza or common cold like symptoms including runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing etc.
  • There are swollen eyes and eyelids and the eyes are red and sensitive to light as well. This is known as conjunctivitis.
  • There may be a mild to severe rise of temperature. Peaks may be over 40.6C (105F) especially in children and peaks keep occurring for several days. The temperature normalizes only to rise again when the rash appears
  • Weakness, irritability and refusal to eat in a child
  • Muscle pain and aches
  • Dry cough

Koplik’s spots

Small pin-head size greyish-white spots (called Koplik's spots) in the mouth and throat. These develop within two days of appearance of symptoms. These may develop on the inside lining of the cheeks, so they are difficult to see.

The spots typically occur opposite the second molar teeth as small, red spots, each with a bluish-white speck in the centre. They occur in 60-70% of patients during the initial phase and remain up to 2-3 days after the rash disappears.

The measles rash

These are reddish brown spots. The measles rash appears two to four days after initial symptoms and lasts for up to eight days. The rash usually starts behind the ears, spread around the head and neck, then spreads to the legs and the rest of the body.

The spots are small and distinct initially but soon get bigger and join together. At later stages the rash becomes blotchy and confluent. It fades after three to four days and may peel off after a week or so. It leaves behind a brownish discoloration, sometimes accompanied by fine peel-offs.

There may be nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Complications of measles

In most cases the measles infection passes without severe complications. In some children however there may development of complications. These complications may be debilitating or even life threatening. These include:-

  • Ear infections otitis media
  • Lung infections – pneumonia
  • Liver infections – hepatitis
  • Eye inflammation – Conjunctivitis
  • Inflammation of the brain – encephalitis. This is very rare and may develop a few days after the rash has appeared, and a quarter of those who get this complication will be left with brain damage. A devastating but extremely rare progressive illness called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) may occur many years after the first episode of measles and is usually fatal. It is rare and affects less than one in 100,000 cases.
  • Complications involving the nervous system

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 8, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, July 08). Measles Symptoms. News-Medical. Retrieved on February 25, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Measles Symptoms". News-Medical. 25 February 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Measles Symptoms". News-Medical. (accessed February 25, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. Measles Symptoms. News-Medical, viewed 25 February 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Study reveals how measles virus mutates and spreads in the human brain