Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

Measles, mumps and rubella (also known as German measles) are common childhood infections. The three diseases are linked because of the controversial MMR vaccine, as well as common traits in the symptoms, causes and method of contamination.


What are measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that affects children between one and four years old.


What causes measles?

The rubeola virus causes measles. Coughing and sneezing spread the disease.

What are measles symptoms?

If your child is infected with measles, he or she may experience:

A key symptom is red or brown spots that appear on the face and neck approximately three days after the first symptoms and then spread to the rest of the body.

What is measles treatment?

Once measles has been contracted, there is no specific treatment, and most infections will run their course and be eradicated by the body's immune system. General good health practice such as resting, drinking plenty of fluids and monitoring the level of fever is essential for the patient's comfort.


What is rubella?

Rubella is a common and relatively minor childhood infection also known as German measles because it was first described by German doctors in the mid-1700s.

What causes rubella?

Rubella is caused by the rubella virus. Like measles, it is spread through coughing and sneezing. During pregnancy, it can also be transmitted from mother to fetus via the bloodstream. In this case, the infection could be serious and may cause congenital rubella syndrome in the baby.

What are rubella symptoms?

Possible signs of infection include:

What is rubella treatment?

Rubella is often more mild than standard measles, and there is no treatment once it has been contracted. The body will generally kill the virus within 7 to 14 days of symptoms emerging. Keeping hydrated, resting, monitoring fever and treating the symptoms with pain relief will all help to provide an efficient and complete recovery.


What are mumps?

Mumps is a virus that most commonly affects children 5 to 14 years old and is characterized by the swelling of glands in the jaw.

What causes mumps?

Mumps is caused by a viral infection that inhabits the salivary glands in the jaw. In some cases, swelling can occur in other glands, as well.

What are mumps symptoms?

The most obvious sign of mumps is the trademark swelling of the glands in the jaw, leading to the stereotypical "hamster-face" look. Other symptoms include:

What is mumps treatment?

As with measles and rubella, once mumps has been contracted, the only treatment available is for the symptoms rather than for the underlying cause. Drinking plenty of fluids, getting rest and taking painkillers will ease the symptoms and keep your child comfortable as the body fights off the infection.

The MMR Vaccine

As it is not possible to treat measles, mumps or rubella once they have been contracted, prevention is better than cure. The MMR vaccine is a triple vaccination that protects children against these infections. It is often given at 13 months, once the immunity passed from mother to child has worn off.

Studies on the MMR vaccine have indicated some links between the vaccination and asthma, Guillan-Barre syndrome, Crohn's disease and autism. However, many of these studies have now been discredited.

If you are concerned about the potential side effects of vaccinating your child or yourself against measles, mumps and rubella, then you should discuss your worries with your health professional. They will help you to weigh the potential risks of the vaccine against the likelihood of infection and complications.

By A. Bertram