Infectious Disease

Recognizing Measles: Key Symptoms and Features

By Charles Li MD

The First symptoms of Measles are Cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis

Measles is transmitted through the air, making it difficult to stop or prevent.

Measles starts when the virus infects your eyes or your nose/mouth.

The virus then takes a few days to silently infect the patient before the first symptoms appear. The patient may be contagious during this period.

First Symptoms of Measles

The first symptoms that appear are cough, runny nose, and red eyes. While these symptoms are not exclusive to measles, you should keep your eyes open for more symptoms if you do see these.

Patients may also develop a high fever, that can run very high up to 104 degrees F, particularly after the rash starts.

There have been 220 measles cases so far in 2018, according to the CDC, which is more than 2015, 2016, and 2017. Additionally, the 2018 data only covers about 5/6ths of the year, up until November 3rd, 2018. It is therefore possible that this number will rise before the end of 2018 as we see more cases.

Koplik Spots: Small white spots in the mouth
Koplik spots: key features and clinical appearance

Image Credit: CDC/ Heinz F. Eichenwald, MD

As measles progresses past the first symptoms, white dots can appear inside the mouth.

Koplik spots are white dots that appear on reddened mucosa (the “skin” inside your mouth.) Koplik spots are usually tiny, the size of grains of sand.

The Measles Rash
Measles Rash Appearance and Key Features

Image Credit: CDC/ Heinz F. Eichenwald, MD

Measles has a distinctive rash that progresses through a distinctive course as well. A few days after the first symptoms appear, a rash can appear first on the face face.

The rash consists of small red spots that are flat against the skin. Sometimes, bumps can appear on top of the spots.

When you press on the rash, in some patients the rash will turn white.

Measles Rash Progression
Progression of the measles rash through the neck, trunk, and extremities

The Rash will then progress down the neck, and then the back/chest. The rash can then move towards your arms and legs.

After a few days, the rash will begin to go away. This typically goes through the order it came in, starting in the face and ending in your arms and legs.

More Articles to Explore:
Breast Self Exam Effectiveness thumbnail

Opioid Crisis

Sufentanil: A Stronger, Controversial New Synthetic Opioid

Thumbnail for Aspirin and Risk of Cancer

Preventative Health

Aspirin and the Risk of Cancer

thumbnail for Rise of Anxiety


The Rise of Anxiety in America

MSG Thumbnail


The Science of MSG