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