First Aid NeonWhen I hear the word measles I think: cough, coryza and conjunctivitis. That’s the way I learned it in medical school. Infected children have a cough, runny nose (coryza) and red eyes (conjunctivitis). They also have distinctive white areas inside the cheeks and a body rash. The measles rash starts at the head and works it way down the body. The rash looks like a lot of other viral rashes: small and red and a little raised. It’s the pattern of the symptoms that makes the diagnosis.

Measles cases are on the rise in the United States. Make sure your child is fully immunized. The first dose of the measles vaccine is given at 12-15 months with a booster shot at 4-6 years of age. Babies traveling outside the US should receive a measles vaccine at 6 months of age. No vaccination can be 100% effective, so it’s important that our community keeps immunization rates high to protect everyone.

In the United States, measles infections have been imported from Europe and other parts of the world. Measles is highly contagious through respiratory secretions, and infected patients quickly make others sick. Encephalitis—inflammation of the brain—occurs in 1 out of every 1000 cases of measles.

With the increase in measles, this is one diagnosis I’m hoping not to make.

The CDC has an information page on measles here.


About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at,, and She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit
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