Rubella is a viral illness that causes a mild fever and a skin rash. It is also called German measles, but is not caused by the same virus that causes measles (rubeola). Rubella is spread through contact with fluid from the nose and throat. It can be prevented with a vaccine.
Babies and children who get rubella usually only have a mild case of the rash and some respiratory symptoms. But it can be a dangerous infection for a baby in the womb. It can lead to miscarriage or birth defects.
It may take 14 to 21 days for a child to have signs of rubella after contact with the virus. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. The most common symptoms start with:
These symptoms may last 1 to 5 days.
Then a rash appears. The rash:
Your child may also have enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. An older child may have sore, inflamed joints.
A child is most contagious when the rash is appearing. But a child may be contagious from 7 days before the rash to 7 days after the rash has started. Because of this, a child may pass the virus to others before you know he or she is sick.
The symptoms of rubella can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
The goal of treatment is to help ease symptoms. Treatment may include:
The infection will go away on its own in 5 to 10 days.
Rubella is dangerous to a baby in the womb. It can cause a pregnant woman to have a miscarriage. A baby in the womb can also get rubella from his or her mother during pregnancy. This can lead to severe birth defects known as congenital rubella syndrome. Signs of congenital rubella syndrome can include:
Rubella can be prevented with the rubella vaccine. The rubella vaccine is often given as part of a combination vaccine. The vaccine includes protection against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The vaccine is usually first given when a child is age 12 months to 15 months, and then again between age 4 and 6 years. Make sure that your child's friends and caregivers have had the MMR vaccine. In addition, girls should have completed the MMR vaccine before they reach childbearing age.
If your child has rubella, you can help prevent the spread of the virus. Make sure to keep your child home from school and play dates for 7 days after the start of the rash. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider for more guidance. Note that a child born with rubella is considered to be contagious until age 1.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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