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Measles

Measles is a very infectious viral illness that can not only be very unpleasant but can sometimes lead to serious complications.


It's now uncommon in the UK because of the effectiveness of vaccination however there have been several outbreaks over the past few years.

Anyone can get measles if they haven't been vaccinated or they haven't had it before, although it's most common in young children.

The infection usually clears in around 7 to 10 days.

Symptoms of measles

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after you're infected.

These can include:

  • cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
  • small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks

A few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body.

How measles can be prevented

Measles can be prevented by having the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

This is given in 2 doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The first dose is given when your child is around 13 months old and a second dose is given before your child starts school.

Adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they haven't been fully vaccinated before. Ask your GP about having the vaccination.

When to see your GP

You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your child may have measles.

It's best to phone before your visit as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.

You should also see your GP if you've been in close contact with someone who has measles and you've not been fully vaccinated (had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven't had the infection before – even if you don't have any symptoms.

You can find more information about measles on NHS choices.