What Does Measles Look Like In Babies?

Know the signs and symptoms of measles in babies.

baby sick. SimplyMui/Radius Images/Getty

Last night, my husband came into the bathroom where I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed (hoping the baby would sleep through the night!). 

"I'm really worried about this measles stuff," he said with a sigh. "Our baby is at the most dangerous age for it."

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard a lot in the news lately about the measles outbreak in the United States, currently up to 102 people from 14 states, ranging in ages from 7 months to 70 years old.

The outbreak has been traced to exposure at a Disneyland park, where CDC experts stated, "we assume that someone got infected overseas, visited the parks and spread the disease to others." 

Unfortunately, for infants, like my daughter, measles almost presents as doubly risky--because not only are they too young for the vaccine, but they are also more at risk to develop complications from the disease. So how can you tell if your baby is showing signs of the measles?

Signs and symptoms of measles:

From the CDC, symptoms of the measles, which is a respiratory condition that affects the lungs and breathing, include:

  • Rash, which will start at the head and progress down the rest of the body
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infection

Additionally, there are a few facts that you should know about the measles:

  • Measles is airborne, meaning a cough or a sneeze can leave your baby exposed.
  • Measles can survive in the air for up to two hours.
  • Measles is contagious before the tell-tale rash appears.
  • Measles can lead to very serious complications, such as pneumonia, deafness, brain damage, and death. 
  • The CDC recommends that everyone receive the MMR vaccine at 12 months old and again between 4 and 6 years old. 

Last year, there was a huge surge in measles cases, jumping from just under 200 reported cases in 2013 to over 600 by the end of 2014.

Shockingly enough, measles was actually considered eradicated from the U.S. in 2000 and now? It's back with a vengeance, with the majority of those cases occurred in people who were unvaccinated. 

As my husband's fears confirmed, measles is especially dangerous in babies under one year old, simply because they are too young to be vaccinated. Although our daughter gets her vaccinations according to schedule, at only six months old, she is too young to receive the MMR vaccine, which is a combination vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella. 

Obviously, the most important thing we can all do to protect our little ones is to ensure that those who can safely get vaccinations do so on a timely schedule. And look, as a mom, I get that vaccines can be one of those subjects that almost feel too overwhelming to think about. But, study after study has confirmed the safety of vaccinations and there are real, medical issues at stake here, especially in babies like mine too young to be vaccinated and for children who can't get vaccinations, like those suffering from cancer.

So if you are undecided about the safety of choosing the MMR vaccine, I urge you to speak with your healthcare provider and have an open and honest discussion about the reality of measles and how to best protect your child. 


Measles Cases and Outbreaks. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online February 3, 2015: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html.

Measles Fact Sheet For Parents. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online February 3, 2015: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/fs-parents.html. 

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