Preventing measles 

The best way to avoid catching measles is to have the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine is part of the routine childhood vaccination programme. One dose is usually given to a child when they are 12-13 months old and a second dose is given before they start school, usually between three and five years old.

Contact your GP if you are uncertain about whether your child’s vaccinations are up to date.

Adults and children who are 6-13 months old can also have the MMR vaccine if they are at risk of catching measles. For example, vaccination may be recommended if there is an outbreak of measles in your local area, you have been in close contact with someone who has measles, or you are planning on travelling to an area where the infection is widespread.

Children who have the vaccine before their first birthday should still have the two routine doses at around 13 months of age and before they start school.

If you are not sure whether you were vaccinated in the past, having the MMR vaccine again will not cause you any harm.

Children under six months

The MMR vaccine is not recommended for babies aged under six months. If the child's mother has had measles in the past, the child will usually have some antibodies to measles already in their system, passed on from their mum at the time of birth. These antibodies may give them some protection for the first few months after they are born.

If their mother has not had measles before getting pregnant, a child under six months old may be given an injection of human normal immunoglobulin (HNIG) if they have a weakened immune system. HNIG is not a vaccine. It is a special concentration of antibodies that can give short-term but immediate protection against measles.

Pregnant women

If you're planning to get pregnant and you have not had measles in the past, talk to your GP about having the MMR vaccine.

The MMR vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy, so you may be offered a HNIG injection instead if there is a risk you have been exposed to the measles virus while you are pregnant.

Limiting the spread of infection

While you have measles, it is important to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other people.

If you or your child have the condition, you should avoid work or school for at least four days from when you first developed the measles rash.

You should also try to avoid contact with people who are more vulnerable to the infection, such as young children and pregnant women.

Page last reviewed: 21/11/2013

Next review due: 21/11/2015