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Measles treatments and prevention

3-minute read

How is measles treated?

  • make sure your child gets plenty of rest and plenty to drink (warm drinks will ease the cough)
  • give them paracetamol to relieve the discomfort and fever
  • put petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) around their lips to protect their skin
  • if their eyelids are crusty, gently wash them with warm water

If your child is having trouble breathing, is coughing a lot or seems drowsy, see your doctor urgently. If your child has a serious case of measles or develops complications, they may need to be treated in hospital.

How is measles prevented?

In Australia, children are immunised against measles. The vaccine is given in combination with the rubella and mumps vaccine. This is known as the 'MMR' vaccine.

Your child will receive the first immunisation dose of MMR at 12 months and a second dose at 18 months (MMRV, which includes varicella, or chicken pox). If the MMRV dose is not received at 18 months, MMR is given again at 4 years.

Immunising your child with the recommended 2 doses provides them with 99% immunity against measles. If your child isn’t immunised and you think they have been exposed to measles, it's important to see your doctor as soon as possible — within 72 hours.

Measles vaccine

Vaccination is your best protection against measles. This table explains how the vaccine is given, who should get it, and whether it is on the National Immunisation Program Schedule. Some diseases can be prevented with different vaccines, so talk to your doctor about which one is appropriate for you.

What age is it recommended?

At 12 months and 18 months.

Anyone older who has not had 2 doses of the vaccine previously.

How many doses are required? 2
How is it administered? Injection
Is it free?

Free for children at 12 and 18 months, and at 4 if they didn’t receive both doses.

Free for people under 20 years old, refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age.

For everyone else, there is a cost for this vaccine.

Find out more on the Department of Health website and the National Immunisation Program Schedule, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for additional free vaccines based on your situation or location.

Common side effects The vaccine is very safe. Possible side effects include fever, rash and feeling unwell.

Vaccinations for adults

Adults born between 1966 and 1994 may not be fully vaccinated against measles. Most children during this time would have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but may not have received the follow-up dose that is now recommended.

People born before 1966 are generally considered to be naturally immune to measles because of the high likelihood that they had the virus during their childhood.

If you were born during or after 1966 and are not sure if you have had two doses of measles vaccine, you can see your doctor about catch-up vaccinations. Most states and territories provide these catch-up vaccinations for free.

If you have measles symptoms

Call your doctor if you have any measles symptoms. Let the clinic know about your symptoms so they can consider whether you may be infectious.

Anyone who suspects they might have measles should stay home and should not attend school, child care or work. You might need to be isolated (at home or in hospital) to avoid spreading the highly infectious disease to other people.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2019

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