The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine should be given to your child between the ages of 12 months and 15 months. A second shot should be given between the ages of 4 and 6 (before your child starts school).

Measles is caused by a virus. The virus takes about 6 to 21 days to develop from the time of exposure. Your child can start spreading measles about 5 days before they are ill.

How to know your child has measles

Your child’s health care provider can do blood test to check for measles. However, blood tests may not be needed. They can often tell if your child has measles by doing an exam and learning about the symptoms.


The first symptoms can include:

  • fever (up to 104 F)
  • feeling achy and run down (cold-like symptoms)
  • loss of appetite
  • tiny white spots in the mouth.

After the first symptoms, your child may have:

  • red, runny eyes. (Your child’s eyes may also be extra sensitive to bright light.)
  • sneezing and coughing
  • a red rash that starts on the face and spreads to the body (The spots in the rash can form red patches.)
  • a sore throat.

Your child may start to feel better about 2 days after the rash starts. After 3 or 4 days, the rash will start to turn brown and go away. The skin might peel or flake off, like after a sunburn. Your child may have a cough for 1 to 2 weeks after the rash goes away.

How to make your child more comfortable

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Give your child extra liquids.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) to help with fever and aches. Follow the instructions for your child’s weight or age.

Do not give your child aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin. This can cause a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening brain and liver disorder.

The risk of measles goes up if many people choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to an increase in measles cases in certain parts of the United States.

If you or your child has not had the MMR vaccine, please call your health care provider. If you get the vaccine soon enough, it can help prevent the measles or make it less serious.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022