Monthly Health Tips with Dr Phil Dyer

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This month Dr Dyer gives advice on Measles

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that is spread from person to person through the air, droplets or saliva.

Caused the rubeola virus, measles starts off in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected person before multiplying in the back of the throat and lungs and spreading through the body, including the skin.

Symptoms of the virus usually appear within 9 to 11 days after being infected and last up to two weeks. Symptoms include red eyes, mild to severe temperature, tiny greyish-white spots, tiredness, aches and pains, poor appetite, a dry cough, red-brown spotty rash and cold like symptoms including a runny nose and sneezing.

Measles can affect anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated, but is most common among children aged between one and four years old. Others who are most at risk include babies under one year, people who have a suppressed immune system such as those with cancer or HIV, people who are malnourished, children with vitamin A deficiency or pregnant women.

Children in the UK are offered vaccination against the virus as part of the MMR vaccine, which is given to them between 12 and 15 months of age. In the past the vaccine has meant cases in the UK were rare, however there has been a rise in cases in recent years. This is due to concerns raised about the link between the vaccine and autism. However, numerous studies conducted to investigate the claim have found no link between MMR vaccine and autism.

In most cases amongst children who have measles, rest and simple measures to reduce a fever are all that are needed to ensure a full recovery. Children may be treated at home with pain relief and fever-reducing medicines such as paracetamol and should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids. Once the rash starts, it is usually a matter of treating the symptoms until the body’s immune system fights off the virus.

Most childhood rashes are not measles but you should always consult your doctor if in doubt.

For further information on measles visit NHS Direct at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.

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