Identifying Koplik Spots and Other Symptoms of Measles

person researching koplik spots

Sores or a rash inside the mouth can appear for various reasons and remain for various lengths of time. Koplik spots are small, white spots with red rings that appear in the mouth as a symptom of measles — which is a viral infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Here's what to know about these spots, what symptoms are associated with them and how to treat them.

What Are Koplik Spots?

The Mayo Clinic states that a Koplik spot looks like a small, bluish-white spot with a red background on the inside of the cheek. These spots are early oral signs of the measles virus, and they appear two or three days after measles symptoms begin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To diagnose measles, the Mayo Clinic notes that your doctor may use a blood test or simply examine your rash.

How Do People Contract Measles?

Although measles is considered to be eliminated from the United States due to widespread vaccinations, people who enter the country from regions where the virus has not been eliminated could bring it with them, as the CDC notes. Around the world, approximately 10 million people get measles each year, and the virus is still common in many regions.

If contracted, the measles virus is a serious condition that can be quite dangerous, especially for young children under age 5. The virus is also highly contagious, and it can be spread even before an infected person shows symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Measles

In addition to Koplik spots in the mouth, the CDC warns parents to be on the lookout for these other symptoms of measles:

  • Cough
  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Watery, red eyes
  • Rash

Since these symptoms are similar to many other common diseases, it may difficult to differentiate Koplik spots and measles from other conditions without seeing a health care provider. That's why it's important to see a doctor or take your child to their pediatrician at the first sign of any symptoms.

Measles Treatment

The World Health Organization states that, while there is no specific antiviral medicine available for the treatment of measles, several steps can be taken to treat the symptoms of the condition and aid in a better outcome following the illness. These therapy recommendations include eating a good diet, drinking water for adequate hydration, using vitamin A supplements to prevent vision damage from the virus and using antibiotics if accessory conditions are noted, such as pneumonia and ear or eye infections. Approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who become diagnosed with measles will need to seek treatment at a hospital, according to the CDC.

Routinely examining inside your mouth — as well as your child's — when completing proper oral home care is very important. Look for any lumps or bumps, along with any variations of color or texture in the mouth and cheek tissues. In addition, keeping your regular appointments with your licensed dental professional will help them detect and treat any mouth sores or lesions in your mouth, especially in areas that are difficult to view on your own at home.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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