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Identifying Koplik Spots and Other Symptoms of Measles

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Let’s start by asking the question, “Why are we concerned about measles?” Wasn’t that virus eradicated years ago? 

The answer is yes. And no.  

In the United States, a successful vaccine program has eliminated measles to the point of only about 200 cases a year. However, people who enter the country from regions where the virus has not been eliminated could bring it with them, says the CDC. And around the world, approximately 10 million people get measles each year. The virus is still common in a number of regions. 

The CDC reported that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were interruptions in delivery of global measles immunizations, leading to outbreaks in many nations and exacerbating the situation. 

It’s important to realize that an outbreak can affect not only global populations but also those living in the United States. 

Risks With Measles 

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

Alarmingly, about 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who become diagnosed with measles will require hospitalization, according to the CDC. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis 

Koplik spots are early oral indicators of the measles virus, appearing two or three days after measles symptoms begin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s critical to be able to recognize these spots and the symptoms associated with them, and to know how to treat them. 

So how do you identify a Koplik spot? 

A Koplik spot looks like a small, bluish-white spot with a red background on the inside of the cheek, states the Mayo Clinic.

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 
  • Sore throat 

Since these symptoms are similar to other common diseases, it may be hard to differentiate Koplik spots and measles from other conditions without seeing a health care provider.  

That's why you should see a pediatrician or doctor at the first sign of symptoms. They'll analyze the condition with blood tests and a clinical examination of the rash. 

Measles Treatment 

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that, while there is no specific antiviral medicine available for the treatment of measles, the following measures will help alleviate the symptoms:  

  • Rest 
  • Healthy diet 
  • Water for hydration 
  • Vit A – prevents vision damage 
  • Antibiotics – in the case of ear, eye or lung infections (pneumonia) 

Routinely examining inside your mouth and your child's is important. Look for any lumps or bumps, along with variations of color or texture in the mouth and cheek tissues. Regular appointments with your licensed dental professional will help with early detection and treatment for any mouth sores or lesions in the oral cavity. 

Koplik spots and the associated measles virus are rare in the United States, but measles is a serious condition and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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