Measles vs. Chickenpox: How to Tell Them Apart
Chickenpox and Measles are infections. Childhood conditions like these were once considered common in children under 12.
Red rash on the body is caused by both chickenpox and measles. They can cause a lot of diseases. This is the reason why some people confuse the two conditions.
You can determine which one you or your child have by recognizing other symptoms. The article reviews the symptoms and treatments that can help them. It looks at how you can prevent infections.
Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Measles, also known as rubeola, is caused by the measles virus.
Both chickenpox and measles are highly contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that
The same is true for measles:
Both viruses are airborne. If you breathe in respiratory droplets from someone with the condition, you can pick up the virus. If someone with the condition has come into contact with a surface or object that you have touched, you can acquire both viruses. Inflammation from blisters can spread diseases.
Both viruses are contagious before they show signs of the condition.
People with chickenpox can pass the virus to others up to 2 days before a rash appears, according to the
The typical chickenpox infection lasts
People with measles can pass the virus to others up to
Sometimes it takes 2 to 3 weeks for measles to clear. Measles can cause some serious problems.
- Ear infections.
- encephalitis (swelling and irritation of the brain)
|Contagious period||4 days before rash to 4 days after rash||2 days before rash until all blisters scab over|
Understanding the differences between the two conditions should make it easier to tell them apart.
The rash starts on the chest, stomach, face, and back. It may spread to other parts of the body.
In 2 to 4 days, a chickenpox rash will develop into fluid-filled blisters, called vesicles. These raised bumps are itchy, and they will rupture and leak fluid. It’s not uncommon for someone to have
“The blisters will heal. You can’t pass the virus on to someone else if the bumps have developed a scab.”
Other symptoms of chickenpox include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and headache. The blisters can also develop in the mouth.
A red and flat rash at the forehead is what a measles rash starts out as. It can spread and cause the spots to run together. Some people have small fluid-filled spots.
Other symptoms of measles include runny nose, cough, sore throat, and red, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis). People with measles may also develop Koplik spots, which are small, red spots with blue-white centers inside the mouth and on the cheeks.
|fever||can be as high as 104°F (40°C)||typically 101–102°F (38–39°C)|
|rash||red spots, at first typically on the chest, face, and back, that can spread||red, blotchy rash along the hairline of the forehead that can spread|
|conjunctivitis (red, inflamed eyes)||yes||no|
|lesions in mouth||Koplik spots (small, red spots with blue-white centers)||blisters that can form in the mouth|
|loss of appetite||no||yes|
|duration||10–12 days or possibly several weeks||4–7 days|
Both rashes may not be red in people with dark skin tones. They may look darker than the skin around the rashes. People with darker skin may have chickenpox.
Chickenpox symptoms in adults are usually similar to symptoms in children. However, adults are at a higher risk of severe symptoms and complications.
“Antibiotics aren’t an effective treatment for viral infections. The treatment for these two conditions focuses on easing symptoms and reducing the risk of problems.”
People with chickenpox may take an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine, such as Benadryl. This medication can help reduce itching.
A doctor may prescribe an antiviral to people at high risk of complications of chickenpox. This medication, acyclovir, may reduce the severity of the infection. You should take it within a few days of contact with someone who has the condition, or it is unlikely to be effective.
People are at risk of having a reaction to the vaccine.
- Those with weakened immune systems.
- People are pregnant.
- People with chronic immune-weakening conditions.
- Adults who have not had a vaccine for the disease.
The focus of treatment for most people with the diseases is to manage symptoms. This can be done at home without medical treatment.
Help reduce and manage symptoms.
- Getting a lot of rest.
- drinking fluids to stay hydrated
- Staying home from school, day care or work is important to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Taking antihistamines to reduce itching.
Other home management techniques can address symptoms of chickenpox and measles:
- Use OTC fever reducers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Do not give children aspirin, since it can cause Reye’s syndrome.
- A humidifier is a great way to help with sore throat and cough.
- Gloves are a good way to deter scratching. Clean and clipped fingernails reduce the risk of blisters.
- Take cool baths or use cool compresses to reduce itching. Add OTC oatmeal products, which are available at drugstores and pharmacies, to soothe skin.
- Avoid spicy or acidic foods if blisters develop in the mouth.
Chickenpox and measles are both easily prevented with vaccination. Vaccines for both viruses are part of regular childhood vaccination schedules.
Each vaccine has two shots. The first dose is usually given to children between the ages of 12 and 15 months. The second dose is given to children between 4 and 6 years old.
“Many people don’t have the vaccine today. It was available in 1995. It was a common childhood condition before that.”
However, their children can get vaccinated, and they can rest assured it’s highly effective. According to the CDC, getting two doses of the chickenpox vaccine is
If you were not vaccine-munished as a child, you can still get the vaccine. It will help you avoid getting chickenpox and it will help you avoid spreading it to other people.
Avoiding a chickenpox infection may help you avoid another condition later in life: shingles. The varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, remains in the body after the infection is over. It goes dormant in the nervous system and can later reactivate as shingles, a painful skin rash.
Children who are vaccinated against chickenpox are much less likely to develop shingles when older. A shingles vaccine is also available for people who had chickenpox.
Likewise, the measles vaccine is very effective. After one dose, it is
Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. However, the
The risk for mild side effects of the vaccines is similar to that of any vaccine. They include:
- “It’s more common in adults than children.”
- There are temporary pains and pains in joints.
- A mild rash.
- A sore throat.
There are few more severe vaccine related problems.
An allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, can occur, and it can be life threatening. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, hives, a faster heartbeat, and weakness.
If you or your child have an allergic reaction after a vaccine, call the emergency services.
Childhood infections used to be common. The appearance and location of the red rash can tell you a lot about which disease you are experiencing.
The United States has seen a decrease in the cases of both chickenpox and measles. Measles was considered eliminated at one point. Unvaccinated individuals are able to spread the virus back into the population.
If you have had the disease before, you are unlikely to get it again. The vaccine can cause breakthrough in people who have been exposed to the disease, but symptoms are usually milder.
Measles is a longer condition and may have more common problems. You cannot get the disease again if you have it.
The vaccines for both chickenpox and measles are very effective. They can help you and your child prevent illness and spread infections in your community.