What is Rubella?
Rubella, more commonly known as German measles, is an infection caused by the rubella virus. Rubella is highly contagious and primarily affects the skin and lymph nodes. Rubella is usually spread through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. While the symptoms of Rubella are similar to those present in measles, the illnesses are caused by two totally different viruses and Rubella comes with an added danger to pregnant women.
While it is generally considered a mild illness in children, Rubella can pass through a pregnant woman’s bloodstream to infect her unborn child (a congenital infection) making it a potentially devastating disease for pregnant women to contract.
Congenital rubella syndrome can cause severe consequences such as miscarriage, growth and mental retardation, deformities of the heart and eyes, deafness and even liver, spleen, and bone marrow problems.
Once infected with Rubella, it can take between 1 and 2 weeks before symptoms develop. Starting with a mild fever and swollen and tender glands, a characteristic itchy pink rash develops along with flu-like symptoms. Other symptoms include:
For many children, the symptoms of Rubella are mild and may even go unnoticed. Adults however tend to get more ill with Rubella and may experience more severe symptoms as well as a longer recovery time.
It is important to contact your medical practitioner if you think you or your child has been exposed to rubella, or are showing symptoms that may indicate rubella. While medical attention may not be necessary, if your doctor confirms Rubella, it is essential to stay clear of those people who may spread the virus to a pregnant woman. Your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis by examining the rash and sending a blood sample off to the lab.
If blood tests reveal the presence of rubella antibodies, it is likely that you have rubella or have previously been inoculated against it. If pregnant, you should contact your doctor immediately if you think you may have been exposed to the virus. Blood screening tests will be able to determine if you have had the illness as a child or had the vaccination which should mean that you are immune to the virus.
What causes Rubella?
As mentioned, Rubella is caused by the rubella virus which is transmitted through droplets in the air or direct contact. This makes rubella highly contagious as an infected individual only has to sneeze, cough or yawn to send these infected droplets into the air which are then breathed in by others.
People with rubella are most contagious from 1 week before they even know that they are ill, until 1 week after the rash appears, and so they should make sure to stay clear of people in contact with pregnant women during this period. An infected person who does not show any symptoms at all can still pass the virus to others.
Because most children are now vaccinated against Rubella, it has become fairly rare in the United States, and complications resulting from congenital rubella are not as serious as they used to be.
Help for Rubella
Rubella is one of those illnesses that doctors can do little about, and unless complications arise, the best thing you can do is to get plenty of bed rest and wait for the virus to run its course. Rubella cannot be treated with antibiotics because they are ineffective against viral infections and so your doctor may simply recommend over-the-counter medications to help deal with your symptoms such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
A common misconception is that these OTC medications are all safe for your child, but be sure to research all side-effects and precautions. It is also not advisable to give your child aspirin during a viral infection as complications have been documented. Bed rest, fever monitoring, a healthy diet and plenty of fluids are still the best treatment.
Fighting off any illness requires a strong and efficient immune system, and so it makes perfect sense to dose up with a few ingredients from nature’s first aid box when illness strikes. Some herbal and homeopathic remedies have long been known for their immune boosting qualities such as Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceous, Inula helenium and Withania somnifera.
These herbs are commonly used to strengthen and assist the immune system to promote faster recovery and are well known for their antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. By boosting the immune system naturally, the body is able to quickly and effectively kill off the rubella virus making recovery time faster and symptoms less disruptive.
More Information on Rubella
Rubella can be easily prevented with a rubella vaccine. While you may think that Rubella is not too serious for your child, immunization is critical in order to control the spread of the disease and the incidence of congenital rubella syndrome.
The vaccine is generally given to children between 12 to 15 months of age as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization, although a single rubella vaccination can be requested if you are hesitant about the MMRI.
Be sure to research the advantages and disadvantages of all vaccinations. There is a great deal of controversy and contradictory scientific evidence and so it is important that you research the facts and make an informed choice as to what is the best option for your child’s health.
Tips for caring for your child with Rubella:
- Rubella like most of the childhood illnesses requires lots of love and attention, bed rest and immune boosting measures. Make sure your child gets sufficient nutrients and plenty of liquids while ill.
- Keeping a sick child in bed is not always easy, so arrange for some quiet activities that do not require running about. DVD’s, books, puzzles and coloring/activity books always work wonders!
- Use a warm moist towel over your child’s neck to soothe swollen glands.
- If you notice your child scratching the rash, make sure that nails are trimmed short to prevent injury. Apply calamine lotion or another soothing lotion to the rash if it is itchy or uncomfortable.
- Keep your child isolated from friends and family members who have not been inoculated. This is especially important for pregnant mothers.