Does Your Child Have Measles, Chickenpox, Or Mumps?

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No child enjoys getting sick, and it’s no fun for parents, either. Among the many, many ailments that people contract in the course of their childhoods, among the most notorious are the measles, chickenpox, and mumps, each of which entails a host of unpleasant symptoms. If you suspect that your child has contracted one of these viruses, read on to discover more about their characteristic signs and vectors of infection.


Measles (also called rubeola) is a highly infectious virus that is contracted by breathing or touching infected fluid. Incubation can last for eight to ten days, following which children will develop a runny nose, high fever, harsh cough, and red eyes. After that, the characteristic rash with develop on the forehead and spread the length of the body. Symptoms generally clear up after a few days. A child infected with measles will become contagious about four days before the rash appears and will remain so for another four days after its onset. Transmission is most likely during the period in which the child is suffering fever (a sign of the viral infection), runny nose and cough (both of which can pass the virus to others). Proper vaccination can help to prevent infection and lessen the symptoms in the event the virus is contracted.


This disease is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which can be spread through the air and by contact with infected mucus, saliva or fluid from the itchy, red blisters that are chickenpox’s most identifiable symptom. Before the rash, though, your child will experience headache, fever and loss of appetite. About two days after these symptoms set in, the characteristic red blisters will appear in patches, probably on the abdomen, face or back before spreading all over the body. Patches will begin as small, red bumps that fill with fluid and eventually burst; rashes on different parts of the body will be in different phases of development. Chickenpox will remain highly contagious until all of these blisters dry up and scab over, usually about a week after they first appear. People who catch chickenpox rarely experience it again; however, VZV never leaves their bodies but lies dormant in the nervous system. Occasionally, the virus will reemerge much later in life as shingles. A person experiencing a shingles outbreak can pass the virus to other people. Chickenpox’s severity and chances of complications rise along with age. Parents will sometimes deliberately put their children in positions to contract VZV when they are young. Many doctors recommend vaccination, which greatly reduces the chance of contracting the disease and is much safer than allowing a full-blown infection. If contracted, vaccination mitigates the severity of chickenpox as well as of shingles later in life.


Like measles and chickenpox, mumps is caused by a virus. Symptoms will appear anywhere between 12 – 25 days after infection, though most commonly around 16 – 18 days afterward. The infection causes fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The most characteristic symptom of mumps, however, are the swollen cheeks and jaw caused by infection of the parotid salivary glands. These symptoms, however, can be so mild that an person does not realize they’ve contracted the virus. They are still nonetheless contagious, and can pass the virus through moisture in their breath or by sharing contaminated objects—utensils, cups, blankets, etc.—with others. There is no specific treatment for mumps other than bed rest; symptoms generally clear and the infection subsides within a week. Luckily, cases of measles, chickenpox, and mumps have dwindled thanks to effective vaccines and their widespread use in pediatric practice. If you think your child has contracted any of these viruses, whether or not he or she has been vaccinated, you should make an appointment with his or her doctor for a professional evaluation and course of treatment.