How to Treat Rubella

Four Parts:Treating Rubella at HomeReceiving Medical Treatment For RubellaRecognizing the Symptoms of RubellaUnderstanding Rubella

Rubella, commonly known as German measles or 3-day measles, is a mild, contagious viral infection caused by the rubella virus. It produces skin rashes and enlarged lymph nodes. Rubella is most common among children ages 5 to 9 years old, although young, non-immunized adults are also vulnerable to rubella. Rubella is a self-limiting illness, which means that very little treatment is required. However, there are steps you can take to ease the symptoms and speed up recovery time.

Part 1
Treating Rubella at Home

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    Get plenty of bedrest and sleep. Viral illnesses like rubella are usually associated with weakness and the feeling that you do not want to get out of bed. This is how our body tell us that we need more rest and sleep.
    • During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines. Cytokines are protein molecules that help to fight off inflammation and infection by telling the immune system which specific viral cells it should be attacking.[1]
    • When you are recovering from rubella (or any viral illness) It is recommended that you get at least 8 to 10 hours sleep a day to allow your body to fight off the infection.
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    Increase your oral fluid intake. Rubella causes fever, which in turn causes your body to sweat more. This results in a loss of fluid, leading to dehydration.
    • To replace these lost fluids and prevent dehydration, you should aim to drink at least 10 glasses of water per day.
    • If you have difficulty drinking this much fluid, you can also increase your water intake by drinking herbal teas and by eating fruit and veg with a high water content, such as watermelon, tomatoes, celery, beets, grapefruit and melon.
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    Use calamine lotion to soothe itchy rashes. One of the major symptoms of rubella is an itchy rash which can be very irritating. You can use calamine lotion (available over-the-counter at most pharmacies) to provide relief for this itchy rash.
    • Calamine lotion works using a counter-irritant effect. Once applied, it evaporates off the surface off the skin, producing a cooling effect that minimizes the itch.
    • You can apply calamine lotion to the affected skin using a piece of cotton wool. Do this three times a day, or as necessary.
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    Add vitamin C-rich foods to your diet. Vitamin C boosts the immune system by triggering the production of phagocytes which are cells that kill foreign bodies by ingesting them. This helps your body to fight off the rubella virus more quickly.
    • Be sure to get your daily those of Vitamin C by eating fruits and vegetables with every major meal. Fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C include:
    • Blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, raw green cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries, garlic, grapefruit, kale, lemon, lime, mandarin orange, mango, melon, orange, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, potato, raspberries, spinach, strawberries, tangerine and tomato.

Part 2
Receiving Medical Treatment For Rubella

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    Take OTC medications to relieve pain and bring down fever. If you are experiencing symptoms of rubella such as muscle or joint pain, headache or fever, your doctor may advise you to take over-the-counter pain medications to relieve these symptoms. Such medications include Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Aspirin.
    • These medications work by inhibiting the body's production of prostaglandin E2 which causes the cells in the hypothalamus (brain part that regulates temperature) to fire at a rapid rate, therefore increasing the body’s temperature. This helps to bring down fever. These medicines also work by blocking specific body chemicals that send pain signals to the brain.
    • Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children suffering from viral illnesses because it can lead to the development of Reye Syndrome (rare disease that damages the brain and liver) that can be fatal.
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    Undergo hyperimmune globulin treatment if you are pregnant. Hyperimmune globulin is an antibody given to pregnant women who have been exposed to rubella. It helps to fight against off the infection and reduce its symptoms. However, the developing baby inside the womb is still at risk. Hyperimmune globulin fights and destroys the rubella virus in three ways:
    • It binds directly to any foreign bodies in your system and coats their surface, making them unable to enter or damage healthy cells.
    • It stimulates other parts of the immune system in order to destroy foreign bodies.
    • It marks foreign bodies so that they can be easily identified and destroyed by the immune system’s cells
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    Have any lost fluids replaced through an intravenous line. Rubella often leads to dehydration, as your body uses more water to fight off infection and the associated fever causes you to sweat more.
    • In cases of severe dehydration, you will need to have lost fluids replaced through an intravenous line at the hospital or doctor's office.
    • This is done by having a sterile needle inserted in your arm, which is connected to a tube and fluid bottle.

Part 3
Recognizing the Symptoms of Rubella

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    Check your temperature. Low grade fever (37.2°C – 37.8°C or 99°F - 100°F) is a symptoms of Rubella. Fever is one of the body's defense mechanisms against infection, as the heat kills off microorganisms causing the disease.
    • When the body’s immune system senses foreign bodies, pyrogens (substances that cause fever) are released and travel to the hypothalamus (part of the brain which regulates body temperature).
    • The pyrogens now bind to the receptors in the hypothalamus and the body’s temperature starts to rise, resulting in fever.
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    Feel for enlarged lymph nodes. When you are suffering from enlarged lymph nodes, the back of the neck, behind the ears and the base of the skull is tender and a lump can be felt. This is the hallmark of rubella.
    • Lymph nodes help the body fight infection by sending out disease-fighting cells and compounds and carrying white blood cells around the body. The lymph nodes themselves are small, bean-shaped glands that are distributed in different parts of the body such as the neck, groin and armpit.
    • Viruses, bacteria and other foreign bodies are trapped in the lymph nodes (causing the swelling) and are destroyed by lymphocytes, which are special white blood cells.
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    Look for the development of itchy rashes. One of the main symptoms of rubella is an itchy rash that typically begins on the face and spreads rapidly to trunk and extremities.
    • At the end of the 2nd day, the rash begins to fade in the order that it appeared and by the 3rd day the rash has usually disappears.
    • The medical term used to describe this type of rash is maculopapular - which is a combination of both flat, red patches and raised red bumps. [2]
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    Be aware of any headaches you experience. Rubella infection triggers the occurrence of headaches, as the body struggles to fight the infection. However, it's not entirely clear why the pain signals causing the headache are triggered in the first place.[3]
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    Consider whether you've experienced a loss of appetite. Rubella infection sometimes alters a person's normal eating habits of. When higher body temperatures occur (above 98.6 degree F) the link between a person's taste buds and the brain stops working, leading to a loss of taste. Without a sense of taste, people tend to lost their appetites.
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    Look for mild conjunctivitis around the eyes. With rubella, the lining of the eyelids and eyeballs sometimes becomes inflamed. This happens as a result of the same bacterial emboli (free flowing blood clot) that causes the maculopapular rash. Conjunctivitis results in inflamed eyelids and eyeballs.
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    Feel for joint pain and swelling. Whenever rubella infection is present, an aching joint pain can usually be felt. This is due to the secretion of inflammatory chemicals by the immune system, which causes muscles and joints to swell. Pain receptors in these muscles and joints then send pain signals to the brain, causing an aching sensation.
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    Watch out for a runny nose. Due to the presence of the rubella infection, a runny nose may occur. A runny nose keeps germs, dirt, pollen and bacteria from getting into your lungs by stopping them in your nose. When you blow your nose, the germs, dirt, bacteria and other microorganisms trapped in the mucus are expelled.

Part 4
Understanding Rubella

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    Understand what rubella is. Rubella (German measles or three-day measles) is an acute viral infection that affects both children and adults. It is caused by the rubella virus. Those who are affected usually experiences rash, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes.
    • This illness can resemble an attack of measles (rubeola) and can cause arthritis, especially in adults.
    • Rubella is fatal during pregnancy because it can lead to fetal infection, a condition termed as congenital rubella syndrome.
    • Rubella is common during the springtime and it usually affects school-aged children.
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    Learn how rubella is transmitted. Rubella is transmitted through direct contact with nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) secretions. It can also spread through air droplets which target the respiratory tract and the blood stream.
    • In congenital rubella, transplacental transmission may occur. This is when the virus is spread from mother to the baby through the placenta.[4]
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    Know how rubella is diagnosed. Health care professionals usually perform laboratory examinations to confirm rubella infection. These tests may include:
    • Nasal and throat swab: Cell cultures will be done to confirm the presence of the rubella virus. Samples of mucus from blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluid can also be examined.[5]
    • Blood Test: The test will detect the presence of different rubella antibodies in the blood, indicating recent or past exposure to rubella virus or a rubella vaccination. It is usually recommended for women before becoming pregnant.
    • Convalescent Serum. A fourfold rise in the antibody titers confirms the diagnosis of rubella.
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    Be aware that it's possible to be immunized against rubella. The rubella virus can be prevented using the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) combination vaccine.
    • This vaccination is usually given to infants at 12 to 15 months old, but when epidemics occur the vaccination is given earlier. A second dose of the vaccine (known as a booster) is given at 4 to 6 years of age before entering to school.[6]
    • It is particularly important for girls to receive the MMR vaccination in order to prevent rubella from affecting their future pregnancies.
    • Women of childbearing age who are planning to become pregnant should make sure that they have immunity to rubella. If they are not immune, they should be vaccinated at least one month before conceiving. Pregnant women cannot be given the rubella vaccine.
    • In addition, people people who have previously been infected with rubella acquire lifelong immunity to the infection.
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    Familiarize yourself with the possible complications of rubella. Rubella is a mild infection and complications are rare. However in some cases people infected with rubella may experience complications such as:
    • Miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects: These could happen if the mother becomes infected with rubella while conceiving. The unborn child is most at risk during the first trimester because this is when the development of major organs takes place.
    • Arthritis: The fingers, wrist and knees can be affected and could last for a month.
    • Otitis Media: This is an infection in the ear.
    • Encephalitis: This is inflammation of the brain.
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    Understand how you can prevent rubella from spreading. Anyone who is infected with the rubella virus should be isolated in order to contain the spread of infection.
    • This isolation should last for ten days or until the disease abates. The room should be well ventilated and dark to prevent photophobia.
    • Anyone who enters the room should use a mask and gloves when coming in close contact with the infected individual. Afterwards, proper hand washing should be done.


  • Taking a lukewarm bath with a cup of oatmeal or barley helps to relieve itchiness and may break the presence of fever.

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Categories: Infectious Diseases