How is rubella treated?

For the most part, rubella must run its course. No treatment or medication can bring healing faster. Bed rest is the best option for mild symptoms. You can use acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®) and fluids for a fever. You should call a doctor if you have concerns about any symptoms in a child or an adult.

Having rubella builds immunity against future infections. It is rare to get a second case of the disease.

Are there complications associated with rubella?

A pregnant woman who gets rubella, especially in the first trimester, can miscarry or deliver her baby prematurely. The baby also might die after birth or develop birth defects. Up to 85 percent of babies that get rubella in the womb during the first trimester are born with some type of birth defect. But birth defects are rare if infection occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Rubella-caused birth defects are called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Defects may include:

  • Heart problems
  • Loss of hearing and/or eyesight
  • Learning problems
  • Liver and/or spleen damage
  • Autism
  • Thyroid problems
  • Diabetes

There is no cure for CRS, but like rubella itself, CRS was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2004, and is rare today. Between 2005 and 2015, eight babies with CRS were reported in the United States.

Women should make sure they are vaccinated against rubella at least four weeks before they become pregnant. A pregnant woman who is exposed to rubella or who comes down with rubella should call her healthcare provider.

What about other complications from rubella?

Women with rubella experience arthritis or joint pain in about 70 percent of cases, but it is usually temporary. Arthritis in men and children with rubella is rare.

Also, in rare cases, rubella can lead to brain infections and bleeding and bruising problems. Encephalitis occurs in one of every 6,000 rubella cases, mostly in adults.

Lasting aftereffects in children are rare, but there have been reports of ongoing joint pain, sleeping sickness and blood-clotting issues in children.

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