Rubella and your baby

Rubella, also called German measles, is an infection that causes mild flu-like symptoms and a rash on the skin. Only about half of children infected with rubella have these symptoms. Others have no symptoms and parents may not even know they’re infected.

Rubella has been eliminated in the United States because of routine vaccination of children. Vaccination protects a person against rubella for life. Only five cases of rubella were reported in this country between 2001 and 2004.

Rubella is common in other countries. Travelers can bring it into the United States, or you can get it when travelling outside the country.

It’s important to get your baby vaccinated for rubella. The vaccine is called MMR and protects your baby from measles, mumps and rubella. Your baby can get the MMR vaccine at 1 year of age.

What are signs and symptoms of rubella?

Children generally have few signs or symptoms. Rubella is usually mild with flu-like symptoms followed by a rash. The rash is often the first sign a parent notices. The rash often lasts about 3 days.

Flu-like symptoms include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen glands
  • Muscle or joint pain

What causes rubella?

Rubella is caused by a virus (a tiny organism that can make you sick). It’s very contagious and is spread through the air from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

How is rubella diagnosed and treated?

Your baby’s health care provider takes a swab of your baby’s nose or throat and tests it for rubella.

There is no treatment for rubella. The illness usually goes away on its own. Try to keep him comfortable. Give him fluids and try to get him to rest if he’s tired. If your baby has a fever, his health care provider may recommend a fever reducer, like acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

How can you prevent your baby from getting rubella?

Make sure your baby gets the MMR vaccine. Your baby gets the vaccine in two doses: the first between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years.

Until your baby gets her first MMR vaccine:

  • Keep your baby away from anyone who has rubella.
  • Tell your baby’s health care provider right away if your baby has been in contact with someone who has rubella.
  • Make sure you’re vaccinated and immune to rubella. Immune means being protected from an infection. If you're immune to an infection, it means you can't get the infection. You being immune to rubella can help protect your baby from the illness until she gets her MMR vaccinations. It also means you’re immune from the disease during any future pregnancies.

See also: Rubella and pregnancy, Vaccinations and your baby, Vaccinations and pregnancy

Last reviewed: April, 2013