Measles kills 136,000 kids every year – would you recognise the symptoms in your child before it’s too late?

MEASLES kills more than 136,000 children every year, according to the World Health Organization.

Many survive the highly infectious illness, but some are left with serious health complications, including pneumonia, meningitis and blindness.

A rash isn’t the only red flag symptom of measles

Getting the MMR jab can prevent little ones from getting the bug – but many remain unvaccinated.

Experts fear this has caused a dramatic spike in cases, meaning measles now kills 136,200 globally, a report in November 2023 found.

Measles deaths across the world increased by 43 per cent in 2022, up from 95,000 the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed.

It added that cases had jumped by 18 per cent in that same time period – from about 7.8million to 9.2million – while the number of countries reporting “large or disruptive outbreaks” of measles rose from 22 to 37.

The UK is currently battling a “concerning” rise in cases, with two thirds in under-10s.

More than 465 were confirmed between October 2023 and January 2024. One man in Ireland has died.

But the problem extends into Europe and beyond, with nine children having lost their lives so far – one in Armenia, one in Azerbaijan and seven in Kyrgyzstan – and almost 21,000 hospitalised.

John Vertefeuille, director of the CDC’s Global Immunisation Division, said in a statement: “The increase in measles outbreaks and deaths is staggering, but unfortunately, not unexpected given the declining vaccination rates we’ve seen in the past few years.”

Most parents will know to recognise measles from the rash that appears on their child’s head or neck before spreading to the rest of the body.

But this telltale sign usually surfaces a few days after kids fall ill – and there are nine other symptoms mums and dads should keep their eyes peeled for, according to NHS Inform.

Measles symptoms typically start appearing about 10 days after infection. They can include:

Cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough

Sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light

Watery eyes

Swollen eyes

A high temperature that may reach around 40C

Small greyish-white spots in cheeks or back of the lips

Aches and pains

Loss of appetite

Tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy

The measles rash usually develops around two to four days after the cold-like symptoms.

The telltale rash:

Usually first appears on the head or neck – typically on the face and behind the ears – before spreading outwards to the rest of the body

Is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches

Looks brown or red on white skin but can be harder to see on black or brown skin

Is not usually itchy but can be slightly itchy for some people

If you think you or your little one has measles, you should phone your GP immediately.

It’s also important to do so if your child has been in close contact with someone who has measles and has not been fully vaccinated or hasn’t had the infection before.

Do this even if they don’t have any symptoms.

How can I look after a child with measles?

While most measles sufferers recover, it can be very unpleasant to endure – especially for youngsters.

It can, however, usually be treated at home and will pass within a week to 10 days.

The NHS says it can help your child to:

Rest and drink plenty of fluids

Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve a high temperature – but do not give aspirin to children under 16 years

Have crusts from their eyes gently removed with cotton wool soaked in warm water

Children should stay off nursery or school for at least four days after the rash appears.

How can I stop my child catching measles?

The best way to protect your child from measles, for which there is no treatment or cure, is by getting them vaccinated against it.

This means two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

It’s typically given to babies and young tots through the NHS vaccination schedule.

The first dose can be administered when your child is one and the second when they’re three years and four months.

If your little one has missed these jabs, you can still ask your GP surgery to give them.

Official figures show uptake of the vaccine is at its lowest point in more than a decade.

A staggering 3.4million under-16s in Britain are at risk of catching the virus as they have only had one or neither MMR jab.

When should I get my child urgent help?

If measles, which is described as one of the world’s most contagious diseases, spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain, it can become very serious.

It can result in problems such as pneumonia, meningitis, blindness and seizures, according to the NHS.

The illness can also lead to lifelong disabilities and even death.

You should call 999 or go to A&E if your child has measles and:

Shortness of breath

A high temperature that does not come down after taking paracetamol or ibuprofen



The lifesaving vaccines you need at every age

Eight weeks

6-in-1 vaccine
Rotavirus vaccine
MenB vaccine

12 weeks

6-in-1 vaccine (2nd dose)
Pneumococcal vaccine
Rotavirus vaccine (2nd dose)

16 weeks

6-in-1 vaccine (3rd dose)
MenB vaccine (2nd dose)

One year

Hib/MenC vaccine (1st dose)
MMR vaccine (1st dose)
Pneumococcal vaccine (2nd dose)
MenB vaccine (3rd dose)

Two to 15 years

Children’s flu vaccine (every year until children finish Year 11 of secondary school)

Three years and four months

MMR vaccine (2nd dose)
4-in-1 pre-school booster vaccine

12 to 13 years

HPV vaccine

14 years

3-in-1 teenage booster vaccine
MenACWY vaccine

65 years

Flu vaccine (given every year after turning 65)
Pneumococcal vaccine
Shingles vaccine (if you turned 65 on or after 1 September 2023)

70 to 79 years

Shingles vaccine

Source: The NHS

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