Healthy Living

Rubella Symptoms and Treatment

German Measles (Rubella): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

What is rubella?

Rubella is a contagious viral disease that is characterized by red rashes on the skin. The condition is also called German measles, although it is not caused by the virus that causes measles. Aside from a widespread skin rash, individuals who have rubella also have swollen lymph nodes along with fever

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US has eliminated rubella in 2004. To eliminate rubella, there must be a continuous absence of disease transmission at least one year or more in a geographical area. Even though there are no endemic rubella transmissions in the United States, the disease still persists in other areas around the world. For this reason, rubella can still be transmitted to people in the US through individuals who contract the disease in other countries. 


The disease is caused by the rubella virus, which is passed from one person to another. Its transmission is through direct exposure to infected respiratory secretions (mucus) or exposure to droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough. Pregnant women with rubella can also transmit the disease to their unborn child through the bloodstream.

An individual with the disease is usually contagious 10 days before the appearance of the rash and until the rash goes away, which is around 1-2 weeks. For this reason, infected individuals are able to spread the infection without realizing it. 

Rubella cases rarely occur in the US due to widespread vaccination in young children. However, rubella still occurs and transmitted by foreigners who did not receive vaccination against the disease. When traveling to places that have known rubella cases, it is important to acknowledge such risk factor, especially when you are pregnant. 


Children with rubella often experience mild but noticeable symptoms. A red rash is usually the first sign of the disease. Initially, rashes appear on the face and then spreads all over the body. The rash lasts for three days, which is the reason why rubella is also called as “three-day measles”. Other symptoms of rubella tend to occur five days before the appearance of the rash. They include:

  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Low-grade fever
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye (mild)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Body malaise (overall weakness)

Rubella symptoms in adults include:

Around 25-50 percent of individuals with rubella are asymptomatic or without symptoms.

If you are pregnant and suspect that you have rubella, see a doctor immediately. Although rare, rubella can also lead to brain swelling and ear infections. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:


Arthritis may be experienced by women who get infected with rubella. The risk is around 70 percent in women, but rare in men and children. In rare cases of rubella, serious complications may arise, such as bleeding and brain infections.

The most dangerous complication that arises from a rubella infection is the damage it can cause to an unborn baby. Infected pregnant women who are not vaccinated against the rubella virus are at risk of having a miscarriage or fetal death after delivery. An infected mother can also pass the virus to her unborn child, who can develop the following serious birth defects:

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss
  • Damaged spleen or liver
  • Heart problems
  • Intellectual disability

Pregnant women who get infected during the first trimester have an increased risk of serious birth defects in their babies, which are called as congenital rubella syndrome.


Currently, there is no specific treatment for rubella. Most symptoms of rubella are mild, which can be managed at home. The condition also improves within 7-10 days. Your healthcare provider would probably suggest staying at home until you feel better.

It is recommended to skip school or work to minimize the risk of spreading the disease. Moreover, avoid direct contact with pregnant women and young children because they are more likely to contract the infection.

If pregnant women are infected with rubella, they may be prescribed antibodies, which are called hyperimmune globulin to help fight the infection. This treatment can help minimize the symptoms, but does not reduce the risk of the unborn baby to develop birth defects.


The MMR vaccine can prevent rubella. The vaccine provides protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. It is recommended for young children to get two doses of the vaccine. The first dose is usually given when children are 12-15 months old. The second dose will be given when they reach the age of 4-6 years old. Adolescents and adults should also have an updated MMR vaccination.

The MMR vaccine provides around 97 percent protection against rubella. Children ages 1-12 years old may get the MMRV vaccine, which provides protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).

Home Remedies

Below are some effective home remedies that can help reduce the discomfort caused by the infection:

  • Turmeric: This spice has been considered as a powerful remedy with a medicinal value when it comes to treating different health problems. Turmeric contains antiviral, anti-inflammatory, as well as antioxidant properties that would help fight off the virus quickly. It can also relieve inflammation, dry cough, and aches in the joints and muscles. To use turmeric, add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk and consume it. Drink this turmeric milk twice a day. You can also mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder along with some ghee to form a paste. Apply this paste to the rashes to quickly get rid of them.
  • Neem: Neem is considered as a medicinal plant, which is used since a long time ago for the treatment of numerous health conditions, especially those that are caused by bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. To use neem, you can boil about half a bucket of water and then add a sheaf of neem leaves to it. Now, continue boiling the water until the color turns to green. Let the water cool down and use it when bathing. Do this remedy on a daily basis to get rid of the rashes faster. You can also chew a few young and tender neem leaves for at least three days to clear out any traces of infections in the body.
  • Tulsi or Holy Basil: Tulsi is known to contain antiviral, anti-inflammatory, as well as antioxidant properties that can help in destroying the virus and reduce symptoms of infection, such as fever, cough, and persistent headaches. To use tulsi, boil water and then add 20 tulsi leaves to it. Let it simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes before removing from heat. Consume the liquid throughout the day.
  • Ginger Tea: Ginger tea is good for the body. You can brew some fresh ginger tea by adding a teaspoon of grated ginger to a pot of boiling water. Allow it to boil on low heat for a few minutes before turning off the heat. Strain the tea and add a teaspoon of honey. Consume this mixture at least three to four times a day until the infection is completely gone.