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Immune | April 23, 2018 | Author: Naturopath



Measles is a viral infection that can be fatal in young children. In Australia infection rates are very low but outbreaks still occur due to people arriving or returning from overseas. Worldwide, measles is the fifth highest cause of illness and death in children.

Symptoms of measles

Signs and symptoms of measles infection usually appear 10-14 days after exposure and include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sore and red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek (Koplik's spots)
  • A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another—usually starting on the face around the hairline and spreading to the rest of the body
  • A general feeling of unwell and discomfort

Measles complications

The most common complications associated with the measles virus includes middle ear infections, diarrhoea and vomiting and respiratory infections such as bronchitis, croup, laryngitis and pneumonia.

Encephalitis (brain inflammation) roughly affects 1 in every 1000 people with measles and can have very serious outcomes such as permanent brain damage and death.

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) occurs in about 1 in every 100,000 cases and is an extremely rare progressive inflammation of the brain that begins many years after measles infection.

Contracting measles during pregnancy is especially dangerous as there is a higher risk of miscarriage or premature labour.

How is measles spread

Measles is a highly contagious virus that replicates in the mouth and nose of an infected adult or child.

A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.

It is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and infected air particles spray into the air and another person inhales them. These tiny air droplets may also land on a surface where the virus remains active for up to several hours. If you touch a surface or object contaminated by the virus with your hands and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes—the virus can be transmitted this way.

Risk factors

Measles is rare in Australia due to vaccination programs, but cases still occur. People at high risk of contracting measles include:

  • People who haven’t received the measles vaccine—this particularly puts young children and healthcare workers at greater risk.
  • Overseas travellers—if you are travelling to developing countries, measles is more prevalent, and you are at higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Those with a compromised immune system.
  • Vitamin A deficiency—if you are lacking this nutrient in your diet you are more likely to contract measles and display more severe symptoms.

Treatment for measles

Medical attention

If you have been exposed to the measles virus get in contact with your doctor as soon as possible.

Even though no treatment can eradicate an established measles infection there are some measures that can be taken to protect vulnerable individuals. This may involve a post-exposure vaccination or immune serum globulin.


It is important to stay at home to recover from measles infection which usually lasts 14 days. The most critical time to do so is about 4 days before and after the rash appears. This reduces your risk of transmitting the infection to other vulnerable groups. As with all viral infections, maintain good hygiene by washing your hands regularly and wiping down infected surfaces.

Bed rest

Allowing your body time to rest and recover reduces your risk of developing complications and a secondary infection. In some instances, hospitalization may be necessary for severe cases. If the eyes are inflamed and sensitive to bright light you can wear sunglasses or keep the lights dimmed. Excessive television or reading may further irritate the eyes.


During a fever, and especially if there is nausea and diarrhoea, it is essential to maintain hydration. To avoid dehydration, try small sips of water, broth, herbal teas, an electrolyte drink or ice blocks.

Immune boosters

There are specific herbs and nutrients which have antiviral properties to assist in measles infection, including:

Vitamin A

Supplementation with this essential vitamin in measles is associated with large reductions in mortality, morbidity, and vision problems such as blindness and infection. For children with severe cases (including those requiring hospitalization), the World Health Organization suggests treatments of vitamin A on the day of diagnosis and day after to prevent the severity of measles and its complications.
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Warning: vitamin A is not recommended for pregnant women.

Zinc and vitamin C

Immune boostersTaking these nutrients in a combined supplement can help support the immune system during a viral infection such as measles. They play a role in fighting off the virus and reducing complications that affect the eyes, ears and respiratory system. These supplements can be found in a pleasant tasting powder that can be given to the child in small divided doses throughout the day.

Herbal medicine

Powerful antiviral herbs include St john’s wort, echinacea, cat’s claw, garlic, propolis and elderberry. Many of these also posses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties making them helpful in reducing secondary infections. If the eyes are red and irritated an eye bath can be used with cooled boiled water from a strained calendula/eyebright tea.

Things to remember

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can be fatal in children
  • Due to high vaccination rates, measles is rare in Australia, but outbreaks still occur
  • Treatment usually involves bed rest, isolation and staying hydrated
  • Antiviral herbs and nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc and vitamin C may assist in speeding up recovery and reducing complications  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

MacIntyre CR, et al. The role of travel in measles outbreaks in Australia - An enhanced surveillance study. Vaccine. 2016 Aug 17;34(37):4386-91

Mayo-Wilson E, et al. Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011 Aug 25;343:d5094

Puertollano MA, et al. Dietary antioxidants: immunity and host defense. Curr Top Med Chem. 2011;11(14):1752-66

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