6.2.3  Assessing measles

Assess a child with fever to see if there are signs suggesting measles. Look for a generalised rash and for one of the following signs: cough, runny nose or red eyes.

Generalised rash

In measles, a red rash begins behind the ears and on the neck. It spreads to the face first and then over the next 24 hours, the rash spreads to the rest of the body, arms and legs. After four to five days, the rash starts to fade and the skin may peel.

Measles rash does not have blisters or pustules. The rash does not itch. You should not confuse measles with other common childhood rashes such as chicken pox, scabies or heat rash. Chicken pox rash is a generalised rash with vesicles (raised, fluid-filled spots). Scabies occurs on the hands, feet, ankles, elbows and buttocks, and is itchy. Heat rash can be a generalised rash with small bumps and is also itchy. A child with heat rash is not sick. You can recognise measles more easily during times when other cases of measles are occurring in your community.

Cough, runny nose or red eyes

To classify a child as having measles, the child with fever must have a generalised rash and one of the following signs: cough, runny nose or red eyes.

If the child has measles now or within the last three months:

LOOK to see if the child has mouth or eye complications

You have already looked at how to assess other complications of measles, such as stridor in a calm child, pneumonia and diarrhoea, in earlier study sessions in this Module. You will learn about other complication such as malnutrition and ear infection in later study sessions.

LOOK for mouth ulcers. Are they deep and extensive?

Mouth ulcers are common complications of measles which interfere with the feeding of a sick child. Look for mouth ulcers in every child with measles and determine whether they are deep and extensive.

The mouth ulcers should be distinguished from Koplik spots. Koplik spots occur inside the cheek during the early stages of measles infection. They are small irregular bright spots with a white centre. They do not interfere with feeding.

LOOK for pus draining from the eye

Pus draining from the eye is a sign of conjunctivitis. If you do not see pus draining from the eye, look for pus on the eyelids.

Often the pus forms a crust when the child is sleeping and seals the eye shut. It can be gently opened with clean hands. Wash your hands before and after examining the eye of any child with pus draining from the eye.

LOOK for clouding of the cornea

The cornea is the transparent covering of the front part of the eye.

Look carefully for corneal clouding in every child with measles. The corneal clouding may be due to vitamin A deficiency which has been made worse by measles. If the corneal clouding is not treated, the cornea can ulcerate and cause blindness.

A child with clouding of the cornea needs urgent referral and treatment with vitamin A.

  • What kinds of complications might a child have who had measles a month ago?

  • If a child has had measles at any time in the past three months you should check to see if he has any mouth complications such as ulcers, which interfere with feeding if they are deep and extensive. You should also look to see if the child has eye problems such as conjunctivitis or corneal clouding which can ulcerate and cause blindness.

6.2.2  Assessing for other diseases

6.3  Classifying fever