How Do I Protect my Baby and Child from Measles?

First Aid Neon

Babies have some protective antibodies that cross the placenta from their mother if she was immunized or had measles. These antibodies wear off over time and can’t always be depended upon.

A person with measles can be contagious 4 days before the rash starts and for four more days afterwards. Measles is spread by coming in contact with an infected person who is sneezing or coughing. The virus can be present in the air for 2 hours after the infected person leaves the room. Shaking hands, kissing, touching surfaces or door handles or anything that an infected person has come in contact with can also spread measles.

Babies under 8 weeks should not be exposed to crowds or sick people. Their immune systems are not well developed. For the first two years, the immune system does not work well against infection. Babies and toddlers can become sick with influenza and other illnesses besides measles. Avoid close, crowded indoor spaces, and small children, who are sick frequently, and can be contagious before showing signs of infection.

If you must visit a public space with a young infant, consider going when it firsts opens or is less likely to be crowded. Wash your hands and your child’s hands. Running water and soap are best. Use sanitizers when these are not available.

Babies and children who are not immunized present a risk to your child. Those children may come in contact with someone infected with measles, get sick and infect your child. Ask if other children are vaccinated.

The simplest way to protect babies and children from measles is to vaccinate. The vaccine is safe and effective.

The first dose of the measles vaccine (abbreviated as MMR for measles, mumps and rubella) is given after the first birthday and the second dose is given between the ages of 4 and 6 years.

If your baby is 6 months of age or older and you are traveling outside of the US, your baby should be immunized against measles early to avoid catching measles outside of the US and bringing it back.

Measles begins with high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. After that a rash begins at the hairline and spread down the face to the rest of the body. There are pictures of a baby with the measles rash from the recent Disneyland outbreak here.

If you think your child has been exposed to measles or may have measles, please call the office. Know that our office believes in protecting babies and children and vaccinates them!

If the CDC issues additional health advisories with recommendations to immunize and/or reimmunize children against measles, I will tweet that information and post it on the office web site and Facebook page.

The measles vaccine is very effective in preventing disease, but vaccines protect best when everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated. This is called herd immunity. When vaccine protection rates are high in the “herd” and a case of measles is imported from outside the US, the herd stays well. The problem is that people have forgotten how bad measles is and why babies and children should be protected. The Disneyland measles outbreak is a sad lesson. Too many people have chosen not to immunize their children based on misinformation. Their children have been hiding in the herd—and not getting their shots—and now the herd is so poorly immunized that epidemic measles can take hold like it’s the 1950s. Measles is not a benign infection: it can cause pneumonia, encephalitis (brain inflammation), deafness, and death.

Read more about measles from the CDC 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 WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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One Response to How Do I Protect my Baby and Child from Measles?

  1. Pingback: Baby Measles | Casa Verde Pediatrics, Inc. Blog

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