Symptoms of measles

Learn about the symptoms of measles what to look for and what to do if you become ill.

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What are the symptoms of measles?

Symptoms begin 7 to 18 days after exposure. You can spread the virus to others from 4 days before the rash starts until 4 days after the rash appears. The virus is most often spread when people first get sick or before they know they have measles.

Initial symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red eyes
  • sleepiness
  • irritability (feeling cranky or in a bad mood)

Small, white spots may also show up inside the mouth and throat.

After 3 to 7 days, a red blotchy rash develops on the face and spreads down the body.

Most people recover fully from measles within 2 to 3 weeks. However, measles can be especially dangerous for infants and those with weakened immune systems.

Complications can include:

  • ear infections
  • pneumonia (lung infection)
  • encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which can cause seizures, brain damage or death

What do you do if you become ill?

If you are showing the symptoms of measles, see a health care provider as soon as possible. Describe your symptoms over the phone before your appointment. This way the clinic can arrange to see you without exposing others to measles.

It is very important to identify measles in order to prevent it from spreading.

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