Chickenpox, mumps, measles, and rubella, are diseases that we usually associate with our childhood. The best treatment is to let them run their course. Not much can be done once a child or adult comes down with these diseases. Vaccination is the best remedy to prevent these contagious diseases in the first place. Also, 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, Measles, and Rubella – Our 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 begins 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
D.) Rubella or German Measles
Rubella, better known as German measles or three-day measles, is an infection caused by the rubella virus. This disease is often mild with half of the people not realizing that they are infected. A rash may start around two weeks after exposure and last for three days. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash is sometimes itchy and is not as bright as that of measles. Swollen lymph nodes are common and may last a few weeks. A fever, sore throat, and fatigue may also occur.
Rubella is a highly contagious virus that can spread through close contact or through the air. It may pass from person to person through contact with tiny drops of fluid from the nose and throat when sneezing and coughing. This means that you can get the virus by inhaling the droplets of an infected person or touching an object contaminated with the droplets. Also, German measles can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her developing baby through the bloodstream. To avoid complications during pregnancy, many women who become pregnant are given a blood test to confirm immunity to rubella. It’s important to contact your doctor immediately if you’ve never received the vaccine and think you might have been exposed to rubella.
How do German measles affect pregnant women?
When a woman contracts German measles during pregnancy, the virus can be passed on to her developing baby through her bloodstream. This is called congenital rubella syndrome. Congenital rubella syndrome is a serious health concern, as it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. It can also cause birth defects in babies who are carried to term, including:
- delayed growth
- intellectual disabilities
- heart defects
- poorly functioning organs
Note: Women of childbearing age should have their immunity to rubella tested before becoming pregnant. If a vaccine is needed, it’s important to get it at least 28 days before trying to conceive.
How Can I Prevent German Measles?
For most people, vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent German measles. In addition, the rubella vaccine is typically combined with vaccines for measles, mumps as well as varicella, the virus that causes chickenpox. Also, avoid any contact with an infected person.
Symptoms of German Measles
- Rash that appears on the face, and then spreads downward to the rest of the body
- Mild fever or malaise
- Enlarged neck lymph nodes
- Eye redness
- Red rashes
- Runny nose
- Joint pain
Common Tests & Procedures
Blood test: In checking for Rubella antibodies, your doctor will confirm your diagnosis with a blood test. The test can check for the presence of different types of rubella antibodies in your blood. Moreover, antibodies are proteins that recognize and destroy harmful substances, such as viruses and bacteria. Also, the test results can indicate whether you currently have the virus or are immune to it.
A self-healing condition that improves over time without treatment. In addition, medication is given to relieve symptoms.
Analgesics: To relieve pain
Antipyretics: To bring down fever.
Foods to eat:
- Antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, and vegetables
- Lean meats, cold-water fish, soy or beans for protein
Foods to avoid:
- Refined foods, such as white breads
- Red meats