There is currently an outbreak of measles in London and this illness should not be underestimated.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be extremely unpleasant and sometimes leads to serious complications. Measles can affect any age group but is most common in young children, although this outbreak appears to be hitting our teenagers particularly hard as many teenagers were not vaccinated as babies. You are never too old to get vaccinated!

Measles how to help

The Measles infection usually lasts from 7 to 10 days; however it can lead to serious and potentially life changing and life threatening complications in some people if it affects their lungs or brain.

Symptoms of measles

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after infection and can include the following:

Cold-like symptoms; such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough

Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light

A raised temperature (fever), which could get up to 40C (104F)

Small greyish-white raised spots on the inside of the cheeks – these are classic symptoms of Measles.

A few days after this, a reddish-brown blotchy rash will appear, usually starting on the head or upper neck and then spreading to the rest of the body.

When to see your GP

Phone your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles. Tell them this is what you think it might be, as this is a highly contagious illness and they will need to make arrangement to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Please also see your GP if you have had close contact with someone with measles and you are not fully vaccinated or haven’t had the infection before – even if you don’t have any symptoms.

How measles is spread

Measles is a highly contagious droplet virus which means it is spread through coughs and sneezes. The virus is able to survive on hard surfaces for hours.  Therefore if someone touches a contaminated surface and then puts their hands near their mouth or nose, they may become infected.

People with measles are infectious from when the symptoms develop, until about four days after the rash first appears.

How measles can be prevented

Measles can be prevented by having the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The more people who are vaccinated the greater the chance of eradicating this disease completely.

The MMR vaccination is given in two doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The first dose is given when a child is around 13 months old and a second dose is given before they start school.

There was previously controversy about the safety of the MMR vaccine and a possible link with Autism. These concerns have since been disproved and the MMR vaccine remains a safe and extremely well tested weapon in the fight against this extremely unpleasant illness.

Adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they haven’t been fully vaccinated before. Contact your GP to arrange vaccination.

If for some reason the MMR vaccine isn’t suitable for you, a treatment called human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) can be used if you’re at immediate risk of catching measles.

Hand hygiene and extreme care when looking after someone who is infected with Measles is vital to reducing the spread.

Treating measles

There are several things you can do to help relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the infection, including:

  • Ensuring that everyone regularly washes their hands and uses hand sanitizer. Tissues should be disposed of hygienically (flushed down the loo) and it is essential that hands are thoroughly washed after any contact with infected droplets. Infected people should always cover their noses and mouths when coughing and sneezing.
  • Taking regular paracetamol or ibuprofen will reduce the fever and aching and make the patient feel better.
  • Drinking plenty of water and keeping hydrated.
  • Closing the curtains can help reduce light sensitivity and make it less painful for their eyes.
  • Carefully clean their eyes using damp cotton wool and dispose of this hygienically.
  • Staying away from nursery, school or work for at least four days from when the rash first appears.


If you or your child are getting worse or experience any complications, get medical advice quickly.

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. – Award Winning First Aid training tailored to your needs – The convenient way to learn vital skills straight from experts

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