Measles history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [2] ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Alejandro Lemor, M.D. [3]


The symptoms of measles generally begin about 7-14 days after a person has been infected. Clinical diagnosis of measles requires a history of fever of at least three days together with at least one of the three Cs —cough, coryza (runny nose) and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Observation of Koplik's spots is also a characteristic finding in measles. The fever may reach up to 104° F/ 40° C.

History and Symptoms

  • Healthcare providers should consider measles in patients presenting with febrile rash illness and clinically compatible measles symptoms, especially if the person recently traveled internationally or was exposed to a person with febrile rash illness
  • Measles usually begins with a prodromal illness that lasts for 3-5 days consisting of fever and cough, coryza and conjunctivitis. [1]
  • The characteristic measles rash is classically described as a generalized, maculopapular, erythematous rash that begins several days after the fever starts.
  • It starts on the head before spreading to cover most of the body, often causing itching.
  • The rash is said to "stain", changing color from red to dark brown, before disappearing.
  • The rash lasts for 5 to 6 days, and then fades.
  • On average, the rash occurs 14 days after exposure to the virus (within a range of seven to 18 days).
  • The rash usually begins on a person’s face at the hairline and spreads downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.
  • When the rash appears, a fever may spike to more than 104°F.
  • After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.

Common Symptoms

Onset of symptoms in measles infection
Author: Alejandro Lemor, M.D. [1]


  1. "CDC Measles signs and symptoms".

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