Can Measles Be Cured?

Reviewed on 5/12/2022
A red, patchy measles rash on a child's back and arms
Measles is a viral infection with no specific treatment or cure. Home remedies to relieve symptoms of measles include drinking plenty of fluids, rest, pain relievers and fever reducers (acetaminophen [Tylenol]), ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin]), antibiotics (to treat ear or eye infections or pneumonia), and Vitamin A.

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause a rash, fever, and cough. It is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person. 

There is no specific treatment or cure for measles and the illness must run its course. Home remedies to relieve symptoms of measles include: 

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Rest
  • Pain relievers and fever reducers 
  • Antibiotics to treat ear or eye infections or pneumonia that can develop 
  • Vitamin A
    • A doctor may give vitamin A to a child with measles if the child needs to be treated in the hospital, or has another health condition in addition to measles

What Are Measles Symptoms and What Does It Look Like?

The first symptoms of measles include:

  • Fever up to 104oF (40oC)
  • Feeling sick, like you have a cold
  • Loss of appetite
  • Spots in the mouth that may look like grains of salt

After the early symptoms occur, other symptoms of measles may include:

  • Red, watery eyes
  • Eye sensitivity to bright light
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Measles rash: Symptoms include a red rash that starts on the face and spreads to the body
    • Spots in the rash may form red patches 
    • People usually start feeling better about 2 days after the rash starts
    • After 3 or 4 days, the rash starts to turn brown and go away
    • Skin may peel or flake off
    • Cough may linger for 1 or 2 weeks after the rash goes away
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problems

Is Measles Viral? How Does It Spread?

The measles virus causes measles. The measles virus is highly contagious and it spreads easily from person to person. 

6 Types of People Who Can Get the Measles

People at increased risk for contracting measles include:

  • People who never had a measles vaccine
  • Children too young to get a measles vaccine
  • People who did not get a second measles vaccine shot
  • People who got a vaccine shot that did not work well (such as those who got the vaccine prior to 1968)
  • People who travel to countries where the measles vaccine is not common, or those who are around people from these countries
  • People who live in places where the vaccine might be easy to get, but many in that area choose not to get the vaccine
    • Certain parts of the U.S. have seen an increase in measles cases due to vaccine refusal

How Is Measles Diagnosed?

  • Measles is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination. 
  • Blood tests may help confirm a diagnosis but may not be needed. 

What Is the Measles (MMR) Vaccine?

A vaccine called the MMR vaccine, given as a shot, is used to prevent measles. The MMR vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed to protect against measles. 

The first MMR vaccine should be given to all children between 12 to 15 months old and a second shot between 4 to 6 years old, before the child starts school. 

Certain older children and some adults may need the MMR vaccine, including:

  • Hospital or health care workers
  • Students who do not have proof of two shots
  • People traveling outside the United States who don't have proof of having had one shot
  • Anyone who received a measles shot before 1968
    • Some of the measles vaccines did not work well in the past
Reviewed on 5/12/2022
Image Source: iStock Images