Daily Health Tips: Reaction To MMR Vaccine

Q: Hello Doc my daughter reacted to MMR vaccine. What can I do??

A: Thanks for writing in.

Sorry to hear about your daughter’s reaction to this vaccine which is relatively safe. You didn’t mention the specific symptoms she has. The MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine is usually given to children from 12 months of age and not earlier, to ensure that antibodies from the mother do not neutralize the effects of the vaccine. Be sure to let your baby’s know if she has any allergies.

The vaccine is to prevent three childhood diseases: measles, mumps and rubella. I will digress a bit to discuss these diseases a little.

Measles, a viral infection, also known as rubeola causes very serious infection in children who are not vaccinated. It is a droplet infection spread from the cough or sneeze of an infected person as saliva is sprayed into the air and inhaled by uninfected persons. Symptoms typically appear 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The virus would lead to inflammation of various mucous membranes such that typical symptoms would include fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (Apollo), rashes etc.

Treatment includes medication to reduce fever like ibuprofen, antibiotics if there is a secondary bacterial infection, Calamine lotion to reduce the itching from the rashes and Vitamin A for those with deficiency to reduce the severity of the disease. Drink lots of fluids, rest your body and your eyes especially if it hurts to look into bright light. It is also possible to be immunized within 72hours of exposure to the virus. This would prevent the development of full blown measles or reduce the severity of the disease, if it still develops.

To prevent this, be sure to vaccinate your children and isolate anyone who already has the infection to prevent other people from being infected.

Mumps is a viral disease caused by the mumps virus and is contagious. It is most contagious two days before the onset of symptoms and 6 days after the symptoms disappear. It can be spread through droplets like when an infected person sneezes, coughs or even through sharing cups etc.
The infection manifests as swelling of the parotid (salivary) gland on one or both sides of the face (between the jaw and the ear), pain when swallowing, chewing, talking or taking acidic drinks like orange juice, fever, headache etc

In adolescent males, this infection may lead to inflammation of the testicles. Other organs that may be involved include pancreas, ovaries, brain and breasts. Children would usually recover from this infection in about 10 to 12 days. Don’t be tempted to give antibiotics. It’s not a bacterial infection…it’s viral and so, antibiotics won’t work.

What to do? First be sure that we are dealing with mumps. Let the paediatrician confirm a diagnosis. If that’s what it is, only supportive treatment is needed. This entails using drugs like Acetaminophen (Paractemol) to take care of the pain and the fever, avoiding acidic drinks like orange juice, serving meals that are soft and do not require a lot of chewing, using warm or cold compresses on the areas of swelling. Drinking lots of fluids, water especially is a great idea.

If fever increases, child develops stiff neck, convulses or develops abdominal pain, please get to the hospital immediately.

Prevention is by taking the vaccine (first does is given about 12 to 15 months and the second, around 4 to 6 years)and generally staying away from people who have the infection. By the way, the infection also confers lifelong immunity and so the person who has had mumps will not suffer from it again.

Rubella is also called German measles or 3-day measles. It is a contagious viral infection with red rashes like the regular measles we all know. But, rubella is different from the ‘regular’ measles (also known as rubeola) as it is less severe and less infectious than rubeola. The symptoms of rubella are pretty mild and include mild fever, headache, aching joints, runny nose, red eyes, red rash that starts from the face and spreads, painful lumps at the base of the skull (lymph nodes) etc.


These symptoms usually develop 2 to 3 weeks after exposure to the virus. One gets exposed to the virus by inhaling droplets from the sneeze or cough of an infected person or through direct contact with respiratory secretions (eg mucous) of an infected person. An infected person is able to pass on this infection from about 10 days before the rashes appear to about 1 to 2 weeks after the rashes appear. This means that one can pass on the infection before they even realize they have an infection.


Another means of transmitting this infection is from a pregnant mother to her baby. This transmission is through the blood stream…which may have been what happened in this case. This can lead to death or birth defects (deafness, cataracts, heart defects, brain damage) in the baby, especially when this infection is contracted during the first trimester. These defects are referred to as Congenital Rubella Syndrome.


This infection is relatively mild and would ordinarily not require treatment except for isolation especially from pregnant women. In a pregnant woman, however, the effect of this infection can be quite serious for the baby.


Do you stand a chance of having babies with no disabilities in future? Absolutely! Once you have had rubella, you are, usually, immune and will not have it for the rest of your life. So the chances of having this infection again and the baby having the problems noted above, are pretty slim.


For other pregnant women who wonder how to avoid this, it really would be if you have a high index of suspicion that someone has the infection. Remember that even before the person looks ill or has a rash, he/she could very well have the infection already. Generally avoid people who are sickly, have a suspicious looking rash. The MMR vaccine protects against rubella but is not recommended for everyone. Have a chat with your doctor about the relevance of this for you before pregnancy.


Back to our discourse on the vaccine….

Some symptoms of allergy to the MMR vaccine include itching, swelling of the eyes/face, difficulty with swallowing or breathing and reddening of the skin. If any of these occur, please take your baby to the hospital immediately.

Other side effects include fever, pain in the eyes, double vision, vomiting, irritability etc. These latter symptoms, usually do not need medical attention and would resolve as the body adjusts to the vaccine. If these symptoms persist or are troublesome or you just want some clarity, please speak to your baby’s doctor.

I hope this helps.

Have a good night, y’all 😀


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