Rubella is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash. It’s also called German measles or three-day measles. While this infection may cause mild symptoms or even no symptoms in most people, it can cause serious problems for unborn babies whose mothers become infected during pregnancy.


You can vaccinate against rubella and it is part of the vaccination program. APPOTEK can help you with rubella.


Rubella is caused by the rubella virus. It used to be called “German measles,” though it’s not caused by the same virus that causes measles. 


Rubella spreads when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes tiny germ-filled droplets into the air and onto surfaces. People who catch the virus are contagious for up to a week before and a week after the rash appears. Some people don’t know they’re infected because they don’t have symptoms, but they can still pass the virus on to others.


Symptoms usually appear about two to three weeks after initial infection and usually pass within a few days.


Rubella is usually mild in children. Sometimes it doesn’t cause any symptoms.


A pink or red-spotted rash is often the first sign of infection. It starts on the face, and then spreads down to the rest of the body. The rash lasts about 3 days. This is why rubella is sometimes called the “3-day measles.” Along with the rash, you or your child might have:


  • A mild fever
  • Swollen and pink-colored eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • headache
  • swollen glands behind the ears and on the neck
  • cough
  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Sore joints (more common in young women)


The symptoms are usually mild and disappear completely within a few days. 


If you are pregnant, there is a risk that rubella virus can pass from mother to baby in the womb, leading to miscarriage or birth defects. The risk is highest during the first 3 months of pregnancy.


Babies who are infected can have serious birth defects, called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Therefore it is especially important to seek care if you are pregnant and think you may have rubella.


Rubella can also cause complications in women who aren’t pregnant. Young girls and women who get it can develop sore joints (arthritis).  This side effect usually goes away within 2weeks, but a small number of women will have it long term. It rarely occurs in men and children.

Prevention and protection

The best way is to get vaccinated. Children need two doses of the MMR vaccine. They should get the first when they’re between 12 and 15 months old. They should get the second between four and six years of age.


Babies who’ll be traveling to a country where rubella is common can get vaccinated as early as six months.


If you’re a woman of childbearing age and you haven’t been vaccinated, get the MMR vaccine at least one month before you get pregnant. This is most important if you plan to travel to countries where rubella spreads.


There is no treatment for rubella – it’s a virus, so antibiotics won’t work.


Most of the time, the infection in children is so mild, it doesn’t need to be treated. You can bring down your child’s fever and ease aches with pain relievers like children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen. Don’t give your child or teen aspirin, because of the risk for a rare but serious condition called Reye syndrome.


If you’re pregnant and think you’ve caught rubella, call your doctor right away. You may be able to take antibodies called hyperimmune globulin to help your body fight off the virus.

When to consult a doctor

You should always contact your doctor if you suspect that you or your child has rubella. Do not visit your doctor’s surgery without calling them first because you will put anyone who is not immune at risk of catching the rubella infection.


If you are pregnant and have been in contact with someone who has rubella, or if you have not been vaccinated, it is important to seek medical advice right away.

How APPOTEK can help

APPOTEK can help you with rubella. A nurse or doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms, then may prescribe treatment or refer you for further examination. They can also advise you on vaccination. If you are pregnant and suspect rubella, you should contact your primary care doctor right away.


Valeria Chernikova, Neurologist, M.D.