Measles - Symptoms 

Symptoms of measles 

The initial symptoms of measles usually appear around 10 days after you become infected and disappear about 7-10 days later.

The initial symptoms can include:

  • cold-like symptoms – such as a runny nose, watery eyes, swollen eyelids and sneezing
  • red eyes and sensitivity to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may peak at around 40°C (104°F)
  • tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy
  • aches and pains
  • dry cough
  • tiny greyish-white spots (called Koplik's spots) in the mouth and throat
  • loss of appetite

The initial symptoms of measles are then followed by a red-brown spotty rash that develops a few days later.

The measles rash

The measles rash appears two to four days after the initial symptoms and lasts about a week.

The spots usually start behind the ears, before spreading outwards to the head, neck and rest of the body over the next few days.

The spots are initially small but quickly get bigger and often join together. Similar-looking rashes may be mistaken for measles, but measles has a range of other symptoms too, not just a rash.

Use the childhood conditions slideshow to see what the measles rash looks like.

When to seek medical advice

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

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose measles from the combination of symptoms, although a sample of your saliva may be tested to confirm the diagnosis.

Page last reviewed: 21/11/2013

Next review due: 21/11/2015


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Blake07 said on 12 July 2012

I am a 55year old and caught measles recently I believe from my husband who is a medic and was in contact with it . I can honestly say I have never felt so ill as I have this last couple of weeks, and I am still not completely better. I can only say I strongly advise the parents who are afraid of the MMR vaccine (proven unfounded) please please have your kids vaccinated as the illness is quite definitely much much worse than any injection, I wouldn't want to think of any child suffering as I have recently.

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CRD01 said on 09 September 2011

I was also put under an extreme amount of stress having been warned by Health Protection Agency regarding same incident and same member of staff. My son was only 1 yr old and had not yet been immunised, measles is very dangerous for an already sick child. We had to cancel our holiday and wait at home in quarantine to see if we had contracted it. 1 year later I am still waiting for answers as to how this was allowed to happen. It is only strongly recommended that nurses/healthcare workers are immunised and notT compulsary

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changhai said on 17 June 2011

so horrible!

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button moon said on 27 November 2010

Student nurses that are trained in this country do have the MMR. I don't know about Doctors, but how do you know that the member of staff had been innoculated but it just hadn't worked? vaccines are not 100% foolproof.

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Tamsyn12 said on 18 August 2010

My grandson has just had his tonsils out at Royal Berks. The treatment there was very good. However, upon returning home they were notified by the Health Organisation that there was Measles in the ward and they would need further innoculations (my grandson is three yrs). It is a member of staff who has contracted the disease. I wonder why the NHS does not insist upon all staff members working with children being innoculated. Measles is a very painful illness to contract after tonsilectomy.

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