By | June 8, 2022

A well-known childhood disease is rubella. The main characteristics of this viral disease are swollen lymph nodes and the typical skin rash.

What is rubella?

A disease that many people encounter throughout life is rubella. Rubella is a viral disease and mostly occurs in childhood. A very severe skin rash, swollen lymph nodes and a high fever are typical of the disease . In most cases, however, the people affected are lucky and the disease progresses without symptoms, so that it is often not even noticed and remains undetected. For everything about keratitis-ichthyosis deafness syndrome, please visit

However, rubella is considered a highly contagious disease that should be taken seriously. The causative viruses are usually transmitted by droplet infection, such as coughing or sneezing. There are almost never any serious complications associated with rubella unless the rubella does not occur during pregnancy. Rubella can have serious consequences during pregnancy.

For example, there can also be dangers for the unborn child. For example, it can happen that the organs of the embryo are affected. In these cases, an abortion for medical reasons is an option that is often considered. Therefore, it is always advisable to vaccinate girls against rubella up until puberty.


The causes of rubella are clear. Rubella is always caused by an infection with a virus. In this case it is the so-called rubi virus. The rubivirus belongs to the group of togaviruses. The rubivirus has RNA as its genetic material and is distributed all over the world. However, after a single rubella infection, people are immune to the virus and have already formed antibodies against renewed infection, which are reactivated to defend the body when they come into contact with the virus.

The incubation period (the time from infection to outbreak) of the disease is in most cases about two to three weeks. The incubation period varies from person to person. Transmission often occurs through sneezing or coughing, but contagion through kissing or sharing crockery or cutlery cannot be ruled out. There is a 20% to 70% chance that the disease or virus will be transmitted from one person who is already infected to another.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Rubella manifests itself through the typical symptoms of a cold. These include a cold, cough, slight headache and occasionally conjunctivitis. In many cases, the disease resolves after these symptoms without further symptoms appearing. Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck and neck area occurs in half of the patients.

The lymph nodes behind the ears can cause severe pain, often associated with uncomfortable itching. A few days after the swelling, the typical rubella rash appears. Small reddish or brownish spots then form behind the ears, which quickly spread to the entire face, neck, arms and legs. As the disease progresses, the whole body is affected.

The rash usually goes away quickly if the patient seeks treatment. The spots usually disappear after two to three days. In children, the disease can last longer. Accompanying symptoms such as fever and malaise can also occur. The rubella regresses a few days after infection with the pathogen and, apart from a feeling of illness, usually does not cause any other symptoms.

Course of the disease

The course of rubella is usually positive without further complications. Especially in children, there are usually no serious symptoms and no significant complaints are evident. Anyone who has already had the disease is immune to it and does not need to worry about it reoccurring. After the initial infection there is lifelong immunity. Repeated infection can only occur under certain circumstances.

For example, the disease can reappear if the person affected has a low number of antibodies, i.e. an immune deficiency. If such a reinfection occurs, however, the symptoms are very weak and not particularly worth mentioning. The symptoms are usually only mild or not apparent at all. In these cases, the course of the disease is even faster than in the case of an initial infection.


Complications are only to be feared in rare cases when contracting rubella. Adult patients are primarily affected, while children only occasionally suffer from it. The higher the age of the patient, the higher the risk of side effects. The most common complications of rubella include joint inflammation and arthritis.

Occasionally, the amount of platelets in the body also decreases, leading to more frequent bleeding. Rarely, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), inflammation of the ears (otitis), inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis), inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or minor vascular disorders that cause bleeding under the skin occur.

Other sequelae of a rubella infection are bronchitis, epilepsy, hepatosplenomegaly (enlargement of the liver and spleen) and thrombocytopenic purpura. Rubella complications are considered dangerous, especially during pregnancy. There is a risk that the sick mother will also infect her unborn child, which occurs via the placenta. This has a negative effect on the development of the baby because there is a risk of severe organ deformities.

The conceivable consequences include deafness, malformations of the eyes or heart such as unsealed heart walls and mental impairments. There is also a risk that rubella will cause premature birth or miscarriage. If rubella occurs during pregnancy, the affected pregnant woman can opt for an abortion.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you suspect rubella, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. Although the disease in children usually runs its course without complications, a diagnosis and clarification of the need for medical care are indicated. The childhood disease is considered highly contagious and can pose a risk to the unborn child, especially in pregnant women. In severe cases, there is a miscarriage or lifelong damage to the health of the offspring.

Skin changes and swollen lymph nodes are characteristic of the disease. There is also a cough and a strong fever development. A doctor’s visit is already advisable at the first irregularities, as the pathogens spread within a short time and lead to a deterioration in health.

Exhaustion, fatigue and a general feeling of illness are signs that should be presented to a doctor. Medical care is necessary for itching, pustules and open wounds. If swelling, heavy sweating and increased tiredness occur, a doctor should be consulted. Behavioral problems, inner restlessness and headaches must be examined and treated.

Adults in particular who do not have adequate vaccination protection against rubella should consult a doctor if the symptoms increase. There is a risk of secondary diseases that can lead to lifelong impairment.

Treatment & Therapy

In most cases, therapy for rubella is not necessary and is only aimed at relieving the symptoms of the disease in the short term. If symptoms such as fever occur, fever-reducing medication is prescribed. In some cases, anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed. Likewise, antihistamines are often used in the treatment of rubella. As a rule, however, bed rest is sufficient for the disease to slowly subside.


Rubella clears up within a few days with appropriate treatment. After recovery, the doctor must conduct a follow-up examination and check the patient’s state of health. As part of the aftercare, a physical examination and a patient interview will take place. The physical check-up includes a visual diagnosis, a temperature measurement and other measures that depend on the severity of the disease.

The discussion with the patient serves to clarify open questions and ambiguities. The doctor will find out about the course of the rubella and, if necessary, also ask about the effectiveness of the prescribed antibiotics. In the event of side effects, it is necessary to switch medications, which must be tapered off after recovery.

He gives the legal guardians further tips and can, if necessary, put you in touch with a specialist if the rubella does not go away or if other problems arise. The rubella aftercare is carried out by the pediatrician or family doctor. The final examination takes place a few days after recovery. If no abnormalities are found, the patient is discharged. Further investigations are not necessary.

You can do that yourself

If the child has rubella, bed rest applies. The viral disease often occurs without physical symptoms, but physical protection is important. The child should also be isolated until the rash resolves. This avoids contagion. If necessary, the kindergarten or school must be informed about the disease. Other parents then have the opportunity to have their child examined and any rubella detected at an early stage.

Re-pregnant women who have not yet had rubella should see their doctor if the child has rubella. The child is best placed with friends or relatives. In addition, various home remedies help against rubella. Calf wraps or vinegar socks, for example, have proven effective, as have cooling and the use of gentle baths. Quark wraps and cooling pads help with aching lymph nodes.

If the symptoms do not go away despite all measures, the pediatrician should be consulted. If the course is positive, the child should take it easy for at least one to two weeks. Physical activity contributes to a speedy recovery from the second week. For children, early vaccination against the pathogen is recommended so that rubella does not appear in the first place.