Rubella (German Measles) in Babies and Kids

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Rubella (German Measles) in Babies and Kids

As a new mom, you will come across various complications while taking care of your baby. As a baby’s immune system is not fully developed, he will be prone to many diseases. And one of the most common diseases or infections that a baby may contract is ‘Rubella or German Measles’. But you need not worry, as this infection does not really harm a baby or kids for that matter. However, it can be quite dangerous for a pregnant woman. This article will give you a better information about rubella. Find out what are the causes, symptoms, and treatment for Rubella.

What Is Rubella or German Measles?

Rubella or German Measles is a viral infection that generally affects lymph nodes and skin. It is not the same as measles, as it is caused by the ‘rubella virus’. The disease is usually mild but can be quite contagious. A common symptom of rubella is a red rash that appears for a few days. Nowadays, babies are given vaccines for the disease in the form of MMR or Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine. However, in earlier times, rubella used to be quite common in young children and toddlers, especially during the winter.

What Causes Rubella in a Child?

Rubella virus is not common in developed countries. It is prevalent in India and other third world nations. The transmission of rubella is problematic in the sense that the virus can spread to healthy people even before the infected person knows they are sick. This period can sometimes be as long as one week. Rubella is airborne and hence can easily infect your child if they come in contact with the virus. Rubella can also be transmitted by pregnant women to the growing foetus through the blood.

Who Is Most At the Risk of Getting Rubella Infection?

Children who have not been immunised against Rubella are at the highest risk of getting this disease. The most common occurrences of Rubella in newborn babies are in areas where vaccinations are not routinely offered.

Rubella in a child

Symptoms of Rubella in Children

Rubella exhibits a few noticeable signs, usually a week or so after the infection. Here are the main Rubella symptoms in babies to be aware of:

  • Enlarged or swollen lymph nodes, primarily in the neck, armpits, and groin regions.
  • Increase in body temperature, usually around 39-40 degrees.
  • Symptoms resembling those of the common cold.
  • Headaches and inflammation of the eyes.
  • The appearance of tiny red spots that resemble a skin rash on the face, later spreading to the body.
  • Blocked or running nose.
  • Joint pain or muscle aches.

How Does Rubella Spread?

Rubella is not as contagious as other common diseases like chickenpox and measles. Nevertheless, coming into contact with infected mucus or saliva, especially via sneezing and coughing can result in an infection. It may also spread by sharing your utensils with an infected person.

Incubation Period of Rubella Virus

It takes approximately two to three weeks for the incubation period of the virus to complete, with an average of eighteen days. In other words, children exposed to the rubella virus may take up to three weeks to show any signs of infection.

How Long Does Rubella Last?

Rubella is known as the three-day disease. This is because the rubella rash in babies generally lasts for that period. Swollen lymph nodes may not return to normal size for around a week longer. Finally, any joint or muscle aches can stay for longer than two weeks. Children tend to recover faster than adults, with one week being the average time.

How Is the Diagnosis Done?

If you observe a pinkish red rash on your baby’s skin, consult with your doctor. Ensure to book an appointment beforehand as the disease is contagious, and this will give the doctor enough time to observe your baby away from vulnerable patients. After the physical exam, the diagnosis of the disease will be done with an antibody test which can identify the presence of the virus in the blood. They might even take samples from your child’s mouth or nose to test for the disease.

Rubella diagnosed

What Is Congenital Rubella Syndrome and How Serious It Is?

While children usually don’t experience much discomfort with Rubella, its dangers lie in the infection of pregnant women. The vaccine was developed in fact to protect women from acquiring rubella before they become pregnant. A rubella infection in pregnant women can lead to a condition known as congenital rubella syndrome. There is a ninety percent chance of having a baby with congenital rubella syndrome if contracted by the mother in the first trimester. In this case, the virus passes the blood barrier from the mother to the foetus through the placenta. This condition is devastating, leading to several complications. Babies born with rubella experience extreme mental and physical impairment, slow growth, blindness, deafness, organ developmental conditions, and so on. It can also cause miscarriage and stillbirth in several cases. Women who have not received the MMR vaccine are strongly recommended to get immunised at least one month before even trying to conceive.

How Is German Measles Treated In Infants and Children?

Rubella resolves on its own and no medication is required for the same. As viruses are not affected by antibiotics, the ideal solution is letting the disease run its course. However, if your child feels uncomfortable, you can administer paracetamol and ibuprofen in liquid form so they can get some relief. But do not give aspirin, as this can stimulate the development of the rare but dangerous Reye syndrome in children, who are suffering from a viral infection. In the case of pregnant women, specialised antibodies, like hyperimmune globulins are given, but this may not stop your baby from developing Congenital Rubella Syndrome.

How Can You Prevent Your Child from Getting Rubella?

The only way to prevent rubella infection is vaccination. The MMR vaccine has been around for the past fifty years. The first dose of the vaccine is usually given between the ages of twelve and fifteen months. The second dose is required between four and five years of age. Since all vaccines contain inactivated or killed forms of the virus, you can expect very mild symptoms of the disease.

When To See a Doctor

In some cases, rubella can cause dangerous complications. Please consult your doctor as soon as possible if the following symptoms are observed:

  • Continuous chronic headaches
  • Painful or stiff neck
  • Ear pain

Parents may be nervous about giving their child the MMR vaccine due to news reports linking it with autism. However, rest assured that there is no link whatsoever between the two things. Vaccines are not dangerous but considering them dangerous can cause severe problems. Please ensure you take your child for regular vaccinations as recommended by your doctor.

Also Read: Hydrocephalus in Babies