Rubella: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment
When it comes to babies, getting sick every now and then is inevitable. Everyone, including babies, gets sick sometimes. There are many different illnesses that your baby may get at some point during infancy or early childhood. The potential illnesses range from mild to severe and some are preventable while others are not. One particular illness that your child may experience is rubella. Sometimes rubella is known as the German measles, but it’s important to understand that it is not the same thing as measles. Rubella is generally mild and in most cases, is preventable.
What is Rubella?
Rubella is a viral illness. It is typically mild, and in some cases, it is so mild that symptoms don’t even present themselves. Rubella causes a skin rash as well as pain in the joints. Rubella has a two to three-week incubation period. That simply means that symptoms usually appear about two or three weeks after contact with the rubella virus occurs. The rubella virus is spread by coughing, sneezing, or by direct contact with a person carrying the virus. It is one of the many illnesses that once a person has had it one time, they have developed an immunity to it that will protect them from it for the rest of their life. In other words, if your baby does get rubella, you won’t have to worry about them ever getting it again.
What Are the Symptoms of Rubella?
The symptoms of rubella may vary slightly from case to case, mostly in their level of severity. Most cases of rubella are not very severe and the symptoms are mild. In some cases, people infected with the rubella virus may not even experience any symptoms at all.
As with most viruses, rubella will likely cause an elevated body temperature. Your baby’s body raises its temperature to help fight the virus that they’re infected with. The fever associated with rubella is typically mild and in no way harmful to your baby.
2. Cold-Like Symptoms
Rubella can cause typical cold symptoms in your baby such as a runny nose, sore throat, and cough. The sinus drainage that causes the runny nose as well the sore throat can also potentially cause ear infections in some cases. These are very common symptoms not just in the case of rubella but with many other illnesses as well.
3. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Going along with the cold-like symptoms that are often associated with rubella, is the possibility of experiencing swollen lymph nodes. If your little one is experiencing swollen lymph nodes, they will be uncomfortable and you will be able to feel and sometimes see the swelling around the sides of your baby’s neck.
In addition to other symptoms, your baby may end up also getting conjunctivitis, often known as pink eye, while they are infected with rubella. This will leave your baby’s eyes feeling itchy and uncomfortable. They will most likely be clearly irritated and pink or red in colour. Your baby will likely have excessive eye drainage that often dries and becomes crusty, especially during sleep.
One of the main symptoms of rubella is sore joints throughout the body. Since your baby is not able to talk and tell you what is wrong, you may not know that your baby is experiencing this pain, but they will likely be extra fussy if they are. Although, it may be difficult to differentiate fussiness due to joint pain specifically and fussiness simply associated with the other uncomfortable symptoms of rubella.
Another one of the hallmark symptoms of rubella is a skin rash that usually develops after the initial symptoms begin. The rash is pink to red in colour and splotchy. The rash will begin on your baby’s face and spread to the neck and then other parts of your baby’s body. The rash will probably last for approximately one week but it varies with each individual case.
What is the Treatment for Rubella?
There isn’t much that you can do to treat rubella. Antibiotics won’t work to treat it because rubella is viral. Luckily, since rubella symptoms are typically mild, it’s usually not too bad to just let it run its course and take steps to comfort your baby when needed. Sometimes it may be a good idea to give paracetamol to your baby to help treat pain and reduce their fever which will further reduce their discomfort. Just be sure to confirm the proper dose for your baby’s age and weight with your baby’s health care provider. You should also try to help your baby get as much rest as possible and provide them with extra comfort. You should keep your baby home from any child care that they may usually attend to prevent spreading the virus and because your little one will require extra care during this time.
How is Rubella Prevented?
There is a vaccine available that can prevent most cases of rubella. In areas that have a high rate of immunisation such as Australia, rubella is no longer very common. The vaccine for rubella is usually given in one jab that also contains a vaccine against measles, mumps and varicella, commonly known as chicken pox. It is one of the most effective vaccines out there, but of course, there is still a small chance that even a vaccinated individual may get rubella. There is also the fact that young babies are not old enough to receive the vaccine and are therefore more susceptible to getting rubella.
Rubella and Pregnancy
Since rubella tends to be a mild illness that is not severe, it’s usually not a real threat. However, coming into contact with rubella during pregnancy can actually be very dangerous. In fact, the biggest benefit of vaccinating against rubella is to avoid the virus spreading to pregnant women. When a pregnant woman gets rubella, her baby can suffer severe consequences. A pregnant woman that has rubella can pass the illness to her unborn baby. If her unborn baby gets rubella, her pregnancy may result in miscarriage or her baby may suffer severe birth defects.
Congenital Rubella Syndrome
When a baby is exposed to rubella in the womb and has a birth defect as a result, it is called congenital rubella syndrome. There can be many different effects of congenital rubella syndrome for your unborn baby. The risk for the unborn baby is greater if the pregnant mother is exposed to rubella early on in her pregnancy. Around 90% of babies that are exposed to rubella in the first 10 or so weeks of pregnancy end up with a major birth defect. Some possible problems that your baby may face if they are exposed to rubella in pregnancy are:
· Heart defects
· Mental disability
· Organ inflammation
· Impaired growth
If you are pregnant and you think that you may have been or know that you have been exposed to rubella, you should immediately let your pregnancy health care provider know.
The best thing you can do in regard to rubella is to try to prevent it through immunisation. It isn’t a big deal for most people to get rubella, but preventing it is worth it since it can pose such a major risk to pregnant women and their unborn babies. It’s also important to discuss the rubella vaccine with your health care provider if you are planning on trying to conceive. Your health care provider can test you to see if you are immune to rubella. If you are not, they can give you two doses of the vaccine approximately 28 days apart to boost your immunity to the virus. You should then wait at least 28 days after that to attempt to become pregnant. Rubella is not very common anymore, so there isn’t a big reason to worry about it, but it is always good to be safe rather than sorry.