What are the symptoms of rubella?

Once a person has been infected by the rubella virus, there will be an incubation period of around 2 to 3 weeks; during this time early symptoms, known as prodromal symptoms, may start to appear; some people don’t experience symptoms until later on and many people do not experience any symptoms at all (this is known as a sub-clinical infection).

Common prodromal symptoms include:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • High temperature
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Headaches

Once the incubation period is complete, the main symptoms of rubella tend to appear; common symptoms include:

  • A rash: this is perhaps the most distinctive symptom of rubella; the rash appears as small red spots, which start to develop around 3 days after others symptoms start to appear. In most cases, the rash starts to develop around the ears and then spreads to the arms, chest and legs.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: the glands in the throat, at the back of the head and behind the ears become swollen and may cause pain. This symptom usually appears before the rash develops.
  • Symptoms such as a sort throat, headaches and a runny nose, which would usually be associated with a common cold.
  • High temperature: a temperature of over 38 degrees is a common symptom; patients may have a high temperature for up to seven days.
  • Painful joints and aching limbs: these symptoms are more common in adults but they can affect children as well.
  • Loss of appetite and generally feeling unwell and lethargic are also common sings of rubella.

What should I do if I have the symptoms of rubella?

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or believe you may have rubella, you should contact your doctor as quickly as possible; ring the surgery or NHS direct immediately. Do not visit your GP’s surgery without ringing them first, as this can put other patients, especially pregnant women, at risk.

If you are pregnant and you experience any of the symptoms you should get checked out by a doctor as quickly as possible; they will assess your symptoms and they may carry out a blood test. If the symptoms are similar to those of rubella but the doctor suspects you have another illness, they will always test for rubella so that they can rule it out.

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