There has been a recent rise in measles cases in the UK (February 2024). Measles is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can spread very easily.

You can protect your child by making sure they get 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. Normally the 1st is given at 12 months and the 2nd around 3 years 5 months old. Even if you or your children have missed these vaccines, it’s not too late to get them. Contact your GP practice today. 

If your child has had both doses of their MMR vaccine, there is almost no chance of them getting measles (unless they have a severely weakened immune system).

There is more information about the MMR vaccine and other childhood vaccinations on the West Yorkshire Healthier Together childhood vaccinations page.  

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles starts with:

  • fever
  • red, sore, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • runny nose
  • cough

After a few days:

  • Small white spots may appear inside their mouth and on the back of their lips
  • A rash. The rash starts on the face and behind the ears. It then spreads all over the body. The spots of the measles rash are sometimes raised and often join together to form blotchy patches. They are not usually itchy. The rash looks brown or red on white skin. It may be more difficult to see on brown or black skin

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What are the possible complications of measles?

Some children with measles develop more serious problems if it spreads to other parts of the body. These can include:

  • ear infection (otitis media) 
  • pneumonia (chest infection)
  • diarrhoea 
  • blindness
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain which can lead to permanent brain damage)
  • death (1 in 5000 children with measles)

In rare cases, measles can lead to a condition called SSPE (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis). This causes progressive destruction of the brain which causes dementia, loss of ability to move, fits (epilepsy), and eventually death. There is unfortunately no cure for SSPE.

When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following features:

  • Blue lips
  • Too breathless to talk, eat or drink
  • Is pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch
  • Is extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction)
  • Is confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
  • Has a fit / seizure
  • Has double vision or blurred vision
  • Has a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following features:

  • Has laboured or rapid breathing or they are working hard to breathe - drawing in of the muscles below their lower ribs, at their neck or between their ribs (recession)
  • A harsh noise as they breathe in (stridor) present only when they are upset
  • Seems dehydrated (sunken eyes, drowsy or passed no urine for 12 hours)
  • Drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them with toys, TV, food or picking up). Especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down
  • Pus coming out of their ear
  • Is 3-6 months of age with a temperature of 39°C / 102.2°F or above (but fever is common in babies up to 2 days after they receive vaccinations)
  • Continues to have a fever of 38.0°C or above for more than 5 days

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Phone your GP surgery or NHS 111

If your child has no red features, only visit your GP surgery or A&E if advised to do so. Avoid spreading measles to others. 

If symptoms continue for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to a medical professional, recheck that your child has not developed any red features.

  • If none of the above features are present, most children with measles can be safely managed at home.
  • You must inform your GP practice that your child has measles. There may be other people your child has come into contact with at high risk of severe infection.

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111

Your child cannot go back to school or nursery until 4 days after the onset of their rash. This is to avoid them spreading measles to others.

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

What should you do?



  •  If you think your child has measles, let your GP practice know.
  • Measles usually starts to get better in about a week.
  • To make your child more comfortable, you may want to lower their temperature using paracetamol (calpol) or ibuprofen. If you've given your child one of these medications and they're still uncomfortable 2 hours later, you could try the other medication. If this works, you can alternate paracetamol and ibuprofen (every 2 to 3 hours), giving only 1 medicine at a time. Do not give more than the maximum daily dose of either medicine.
  • However, remember that fever is a normal response that may help the body to fight infection. Paracetamol and ibuprofen will not get rid of it entirely. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen bring down the temperature but do not treat the infection. Whilst your child is unwell they will continue to get temperatures once the effects of the medicine has worn off.
  • Avoid sponging your child. It doesn’t actually reduce your child’s temperature and may make your child shiver.
  • Encourage your child to drink lots of fluids.
  • If there are any crusts on your child's eyes, gently clean them using cotton wool soaked in warm water.
  • Your child can spread the infection to others from the time their symptoms start until about 4 days after the rash appears.
  • Children cannot go back to school or nursery until 4 days after the rash has started. They should also avoid contact with babies, pregnant women, people who have not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine and people with weak immune systems.
  • If you are pregnant and haven't received 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, or if there are any children in your family who are under 12 months old or any child who hasn't had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, please inform your GP practice urgently. They might need immediate treatment to protect them from getting measles.
  • If your child with measles has been in contact with someone who has a very weak immune system, let that person know about your child's measles. Ask them to contact their GP practice or NHS 111 urgently.
  • Finally, make sure that you and your partner are up to date with your MMR vaccines before getting pregnant. Measles can be extremely severe during pregnancy and can harm your unborn baby.


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Where should you seek help?

  • Unless your child has red features (See above), try to stay away from public places including pharmacists, GP practices and A&E departments as your child may spread their infection to others.
  • If it is non-urgent, phone your local pharmacist or health visitor.
  • If your child has any of the above amber features, urgently contact your GP. For an urgent out-of-hours GP appointment, call NHS 111
  • You should only call 999 or go your nearest A&E department in critical or life threatening situations.

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice on a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents, carers and young people more information about other organisations that might also be able to help.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare, and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment, and many have private consultation areas. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand. Watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.


Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 0300 373 0944

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5 to19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and, or emotional health needs.


Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse. Phone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses 01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses (0 to 19 service) 0300 373 0944 (local rate number)

Leeds School Nurses 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses 030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses 0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand. Watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of 5. If your child is under 5 years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand. Watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance