Treating measles 

There is no specific treatment for measles, but the condition usually improves without treatment within 7-10 days.

Relieving symptoms

If the symptoms of measles are causing discomfort for you or your child, there are some things you can do to treat these while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus.

Controlling fever and relieving pain

If necessary, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to reduce a high temperature (fever) and treat any aches or pains. Liquid infant paracetamol can be used for young children. Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years old.

Speak to your pharmacist if you are not sure which medications are suitable for your child.

Drink plenty of fluids

If your child has a high temperature, make sure they drink plenty of fluid because they may be at risk of dehydration. Keeping hydrated will also help reduce discomfort caused by coughing.

Treating sore eyes

You can gently clean away any crustiness from your eyelids and lashes using cotton wool soaked in water.

Closing curtains or dimming lights can help reduce any light sensitivity.

Treating cold-like symptoms

If you have cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or a cough, there are a number of things you can do to feel more comfortable.

For example, steam inhalation may offer some relief from a cough. This involves sitting with your head over a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head, close your eyes and breathe deeply, while trying not to get the hot steam in your eyes.

Steam inhalation is not advised for children because of the risk of scalding, but it might help your child if they sit in a hot, steamy bathroom. Alternatively, putting a wet towel on a warm radiator will release more water into the air.

Giving your child warm drinks, particularly ones containing lemon or honey, may also help to relax their airways, loosen mucus and soothe a cough. However, honey should not be given to babies under 12 months.

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.

Spotting signs of serious illness

If you or your child have been diagnosed with measles, you should keep an eye out for any signs of the serious complications that can develop while your body is trying to clear the infection.

Signs of a more serious problem can include:

Visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department or call 999 for an ambulance if you or your child develop any of these symptoms, as they may be a sign of a serious bacterial infection requiring admission to hospital and treatment with antibiotics.

Read more about the complications of measles.

Page last reviewed: 21/11/2013

Next review due: 21/11/2015