Not much can be done once a child or adult comes down with chickenpox, mumps, or measles. Vaccination is the best remedy to prevent these contagious diseases in the first place. However, in treating chickenpox, mumps, and measles, the best treatment is to let them run their course. In most cases, serious complications usually don’t occur. However, there are always exceptions, so it is best to keep the family doctor informed of the patient’s progress.
Chickenpox, Mumps, and Measles – Your Childhood Diseases
Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. Furthermore, the virus is highly contagious to people who haven’t had the disease or been vaccinated against it. Today, a vaccine is available that protects children against chickenpox. Also, routine vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The chickenpox vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent chickenpox and its possible complications.
The itchy blister rash caused by chickenpox infection appears 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually lasts about five to 10 days. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear one to two days before the rash, include:
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise)
In addition, once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:
- Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days
- Small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), which form in about one day and then break and leak
- Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters and take several more days to heal
New bumps continue to appear for several days, so you may have all three stages of the rash — bumps, blisters, and scabbed lesions — at the same time. Also, you can spread the virus to other people for up to 48 hours before the rash appears. The virus remains contagious until all broken blisters have crusted over.
Also, the disease is generally mild in healthy children. Furthermore, in severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes, and mucous membranes of the urethra, anus, and vagina.
When to see a doctor
If you think you or your child might have chickenpox, consult your doctor. In addition, he or she usually can diagnose chickenpox by examining the rash and considering other symptoms. If necessary, your doctor can also prescribe medications to lessen the severity of chickenpox and treat any complications. Also, to avoid infecting others in the waiting room, call ahead for an appointment and mention that you think you or your child may have chickenpox.
Doctors generally diagnose chickenpox based on the rash.
However, if there’s any doubt about the diagnosis, chickenpox can be confirmed with laboratory tests, including blood tests or culture of lesion samples.
In otherwise healthy children, chickenpox typically needs no medical treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine to relieve itching. But for the most part, the disease is allowed to run its course.
If you’re at high risk of complications
For people who are at high risk of complications from chickenpox, doctors sometimes prescribe medications to shorten the length of the infection and to help reduce the risk of complications.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection of the parotid gland, which spreads easily via saliva. Swelling of one or both parotid glands, which presents as puffed out cheeks, is the primary symptom of mumps. Also, treatment for mumps involves lifestyle changes as it resolves on its own in a few weeks. No medications are generally prescribed for treatment.
- Mumps is caused by a viral infection of the parotid gland, one of the salivary glands.
- Very rare (Fewer than 20,000 cases per year in the US).
- Transmitted through saliva, respiratory droplets.
- Usually preventable by vaccine.
- Requires lab tests or imaging.
- It can often be self-treated and last several days or weeks.
The Virus Spreads By Person- to- Person Contact Through:
- – Saliva
- – Droplets released during sneezing or coughing
- – Nasal secretions
- – Sharing utensils with an infected person
- – Touching contaminated surfaces
Infection by the mumps virus may not result in symptoms or can lead to mild symptoms in some cases.
Notable symptoms include:
- Swelling in one or both parotid glands, leading to puffed out cheeks
- Pain in the swollen area
- Muscle ache
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness and/or fatigue
- Pain during chewing or swallowing
No medications or therapies are used to treat mumps as it usually resolves on its own in a few weeks.
- Analgesics: May be prescribed to relieve pain and fever.
Acetaminophen · Ibuprofen
- Use warm or cold compresses to reduce pain and swelling.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Take adequate rest.
- Eat soft foods that do not require too much chewing.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
Measles is a childhood infection caused by a virus. Once quite common, measles can now almost always be prevented with a vaccine.
Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of 5.
Furthermore, as a result of high vaccination rates in general, measles hasn’t been widespread in the United States for more than a decade. The United States averaged about 60 cases of measles a year from 2000 to 2010, but the average number of cases jumped to 205 a year in recent years. However, most of these cases originate outside the country and occur in people who were unvaccinated because they were unaware of an earlier vaccination against the disease.
Measles signs and symptoms appear around 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms of measles typically include:
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots
- A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another
Also, the infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.
- Infection and incubation. For the first 10 to 14 days after you’re infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.
- Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles typically begin with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. In addition, this relatively mild illness may last two or three days.
- Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Also, spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first.
Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs, and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.
- Contagious Period – A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor if you think you or your child may have been exposed to measles or if you or your child has a rash resembling measles.
Measles is a highly contagious illness. The measles moribillis virus causes this disease to replicate in the nose and throat of an infected child or adult. Consequently, when someone with measles coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets spray into the air, where other people can inhale them.
The infected droplets may also land on a surface, where they remain active and contagious for several hours. Also, you can contract the virus by putting your fingers in your mouth or nose or rubbing your eyes after touching the infected surface.
In addition, the infection rate is about 90 percent for people who have come into contact with someone with the virus.
Risk factors for measles include:
- Being unvaccinated. If you haven’t received the vaccine for measles, you’re much more likely to develop the disease.
- Traveling internationally. Traveling to developing countries, where measles outbreaks are more common. Consequently, you’re at a higher risk of catching the disease.
- Having a vitamin A deficiency. If you don’t have enough vitamin A in your diet, you’re more likely to have more severe symptoms and complications.
Complications of measles may include:
- Ear infection. One of the most common complications of measles is a bacterial ear infection.
- Bronchitis, laryngitis or croup. Measles may lead to inflammation of your voice box (larynx) or inflammation of the inner walls that line the main air passageways of your lungs (bronchial tubes).
- Pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common complication of measles. However, people with compromised immune systems can develop an especially dangerous variety of pneumonia that is sometimes fatal.
- Encephalitis. About 1 in 1,000 people with measles develop a complication called encephalitis. Also, Encephalitis may occur right after measles, or it might not occur until months later.
- Pregnancy problems. If you’re pregnant, you need to take special care to avoid measles. Also, the disease can cause preterm labor, low birth weight, and maternal death.
If you do get the measles virus, medicine won’t cure it (drugs don’t kill viruses). However, the best way to speed up the recovery process and prevent complications is to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.
In the U.S., about 1 in 4 people who get measles end up in the hospital. Children under age 5 and adults over age 20 tend to have the worst problems. These may include:
- Encephalitis, which can cause deafness and brain damage
- Ear infections