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Protecting yourself and your child against measles

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  • Date published:

  • Author: alexmantle

Specialists from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are working with the NHS and local authorities following a rise in measles cases. 

To help reduce the risk of further cases, UKHSA is advising everyone to be alert to signs and symptoms and check that their families are fully vaccinated against it. 

What is measles?

Measles is a viral illness that spreads very easily – spending only 15 minutes with someone who has it can be enough to catch it, even up to 4 days before they have a rash. 

It can have serious and life changing consequences, and can sometimes kill. 

You are very unlikely to contract measles if you’ve had it before or have had your full dose of the MMR vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your child against measles. 

For more information about measles, see the website. 

Signs and symptoms 

  • high fever 
  • runny or blocked nose 
  • sneezing 
  • cough 
  • red and watery eyes 
  • small white spots inside the mouth 

A rash usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms, starting on the face and behind the ears before spreading. The spots are sometimes raised and can join together to form blotchy patches. The rash can be harder to see on brown or black skin. 

What to do if you think you or your child has measles

Anyone with symptoms is advised to stay at home and call your GP surgery or NHS 111 for advice. Always call ahead before attending a GP surgery or hospital. 

Protecting yourself and your child against measles

The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.  

2 doses of the MMR vaccine can offer lifelong protection against measles. This is usually offered at 1 year old and 3 years 4 months. Contact your GP if your child has missed these.  

If you or your child has had some vaccinations abroad, or were vaccinated before the MMR was introduced in the UK (1988) you may have some protection but may still benefit from further doses. Contact your GP to discuss this. 

Check that you and your child are protected if you are planning to travel abroad, as it is still common in many countries worldwide.  

The MMR vaccine also offers protection against mumps and rubella (German measles). Both of these are usually mild illnesses but can have serious side effects. Rubella can also have serious consequences for an unborn baby if caught when pregnant. 

In the UK there are 2 brands of MMR vaccine, one of them contains gelatine derived from pigs but the other does not. Please speak to your GP about which you would prefer. 

Adults can also contact their GP to check whether they need the MMR vaccines as well. 

Click here to see answers to common questions about the MMR vaccine.