What is rubella?

Rubella is a viral infection which is also known as German measles. It most commonly affects children. Rubella causes a typical fine, pink rash and fever. Adults may experience more severe symptoms than children. There is no specific treatment for rubella, and fever should be managed with paracetamol or ibuprofen. It is recommended to avoid social situations (work, school, etc.) while infectious. Most people recover within a week of their symptoms beginning.


Rubella is caused by a virus. It is spread through the air by droplets from the throat and nose. Children and people who have not been immunized are at increased risk of infection. Unborn babies are at risk of severe consequences if the mother becomes infected with rubella, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.


The typical symptom is a fine, pink rash, which starts on the face and spreads over the trunk and limbs. Many people also have swollen lymph nodes in the face and neck, and a mild fever. Some people may also have headaches, joint pain, a runny nose, cough, a sore throat or conjunctivitis.


The diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and physical examination. It is possible to do a blood test to look for evidence of a recent rubella infection, though this is not often necessary.


There is no specific treatment for rubella infection. Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for headaches or fever can be helpful.


Rubella is vaccine preventable. Keeping to the recommended vaccination schedule can help prevent rubella infections. People who have rubella should stay home for a week following the rash to avoid infecting other people.

Other names for rubella

  • German measles
  • Three-day measles