Measles is a viral disease that has gained public interest due to annual measles outbreaks in various parts of the U.S. While it is more prevalent in less developed nations, in the United States there are typically smaller, controlled outbreaks without long-term health complications or mortalities. Measles is one viral disease for which an immunization can be used to prevent disease; however, measles outbreaks do occur in both immunized and non-immunized populations. The recent media coverage of measles outbreaks in the U.S. has parents concerned as to possible treatments or prevention methods in addition to immunization. There are several possible alternative treatments that are effective in reducing the length and severity of measles, as well as prevention suggestions.

Prevention of measles is by primarily avoiding contact or exposure with an infected individual and all the places the individual has been. Measles is highly contagious from an infected individual coughing or sneezing. Unlike many other viruses, the measles virus can live for extended times on surfaces such as furniture, counters, and floors. A contagious individual can spread the virus easily simply because they leave a wake of live virus in the spaces they visit. The first step in avoiding measles is hand washing, being aware of breakouts in your community, staying hydrated, and using medical waiting rooms only when necessary during the cold and flu months.

The measles virus has no known effective medication to treat it. As with many viral illnesses the virus simply must run its course over several days to a week time period. However, measles can be lessened with alternative treatments. The most common alternative treatment is vitamin A. Measles is more common in individuals with vitamin A deficiency, so rectifying the deficiency can prevent and actively treat the issue. Taking high-dose vitamin A during a measles episode can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Certain herbs such as licorice, echinacea, turmeric, and garlic have anti-viral properties and can be useful in controlling the effects of the virus. Using larger doses of vitamin C can prevent and reduce measles symptoms. A combination of vitamins and herbs in addition to a healthy diet, rest, and hydration can reduce the potential health complications of measles, if an unfortunate exposure and illness with measles were to occur.

Measles is very concerning to many parents as the intense media focus on the disease heightens their sensitivity about exposure to the disease. However, breakouts are typically limited to localized regions and tend to be confined to very small population outbreaks. If a person were to be in an outbreak region or is otherwise exposed or infected, these are a few key elements that will reduce the discomfort and long-term health complications associated with measles.

Shannon Sinsheimer, ND, is state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health. She can be reached at Optimal Health Center (760) 568.2598.

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