Measles (Rubeola)

A highly contagious acute disease characterized by fever, cough, coryza, conjunctivitis, eruptions (Koplik’s spots) on the buccal and labial mucosa, and a spreading mucopapular cutaneous rash.

Caused by a virus infections that can be spread by physical contact or through the air via respiratory droplets. One usually gives immunity for life, but a few children get measles twice. The incubation period is between7 to 14 days, and is most communicable from 2 to 4 days before to 5 days after the rash appears.

Measles is characterized by fever, red eyes with light sensitivity, runny nose, dry and sometimes severe cough, white spots (Koplik’s spots) on the inside of the cheeks, seen 2 days prior to the red rash near the scalp, later involving the upper body. After 3-4 days it has a brownish bronzy appearance with peeling also occurring. The rash lasts 7 days and the child usually begins to feel better by the fourth day. Symptoms may be severe and children with measles are pretty sick and miserable.

The herbal contribution to treatments of measles is based upon alleviation of symptomatic distress. The primary areas to address include fever, itching, eye sensitivity and coughing.

  • The fever will be helped with diaphoretic teas such as Catnip (Nepetacataria), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Linden (Tiliaspp.). For details of appropriate infusions please refer to pgs. 2-71 to 2-79

  • Alleviation of itching can be achieved by the use of the anti-pruritic herbs. There are many ways of doing this, please refer to Maribeth Riggs for some simple and pleasant suggestions. An example is the : given in the section on chicken pox below. Distilled Witch Hazel dabbed onto the itching skin will usually soothe immediately, although very temporarily. Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a particularly effective anti-pruritic.

  • Eye strain due to photosensitivity is common, and so the child will prefer a darkened room. Two formulations will ease such discomfort, but not replace the need for reduced light. They are an Eyebright (Euphrasiaspp.) wash and a Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) compress. I am quoting Ms. Riggs clear instructions for making the Eyebright eyewash.

Eyebright Eyewash

1/2 oz. Eyebright

1 cup water

Paper coffee filter

Clean cotton washcloth

  1. Combine the Eyebright and water in a covered pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

  2. Strain the liquid very thoroughly through the coffee filter and discard the herbs. There should be no floating particles in the solution.

  3. When the tea has cooled to a tepid temperature, comfortably warm for the eyes, it is ready to use.

  4. This herbal wash is to be used only once. Discard any leftovers and make a fresh batch each time.

Application: Make sure the infant is not hungry or tired before proceeding with the application. Hold the infant securely in your arms and place yourself in a comfortable position on the floor or on a bed. Put the washcloth into the pot of warm tea and place it close to you. Wring out the washcloth with one hand so that it is not dripping but is still quite moist. Gently lay the washcloth across the infant’s eyes and hold it there with very minimal pressure. The infant will close his or her eyes. This is normal and the tea will still be of benefit. Leave the cloth in place over the eyes for 3 minutes, let the infant rest for 3 minutes, then rinse the cloth in the tea and repeat the process 2 more times. The infant will relax at first, then may try to remove the cloth. Keep replacing it gently until the skin around the eyes gets a little red. This is a good sign since it means that blood is circulating in the area. This process may be performed once or twice each day until the infant’s eyes have returned to normal (up to about 1 week). If the infant’s eye disorder seems to cause severe discomfort, or if it persists or gets worse after 1 week of treatment, consult a physician.

  • Demulcent expectorants will help with both the cough and any sore throat. Herbs to consider include Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), Mullein(Verbascum thapsus) and Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). If stronger remedies are indicated then use Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).Please refer to pgs. 2-57 to 2-63.

  • Convalescent recovery will be facilitated by good nutrition and possibly using bitter tonics such as Gentian (Gentiana lutea) or Horehound if the cough is persistent.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021