Mumps, measles, rubella, and chickenpox are infectious diseases that may occur during childhood. Children are more likely to be infected as they haven’t yet developed immunity to them and they tend to gather in groups and come into closer contact with each other. They are also generally not as good with some aspects of hygiene as adults.

Here is a quick rundown of these four infectious diseases and what they mean for your child.


Chickenpox is a common and usually mild childhood illness but can occur at any age. It causes mild fever and a rash of red, itchy patches which turn into fluid-filled blisters before forming a scab which eventually drops off. It spreads through close person-to-person contact and droplets in the air (from coughing and sneezing).

Your child is infectious from up to two days before the red spots appear
and until around five days after all scabs or crusts are dry. If a pregnant woman develops chickenpox it can harm her unborn baby.


Measles is a highly infectious disease which can lead to serious complications. Early symptoms include fever, cough, tiredness, a sore throat, runny nose, a sensitivity to light and sore, watery eyes.

A rash develops after 3-4 days, with red and slightly raised spots. It is spread through droplets in the air and can affect anyone who hasn’t had the disease before, although it’s much more common in those who haven’t been vaccinated. Your child is infectious for at least four days after the rash appears. The illness usually lasts about 10 days.


Mumps is a contagious viral infection that most commonly affects children between 5 and 15 years of age, but is rarely seen today due to effective immunisation. Symptoms include painful swellings located at the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), resulting in a distinctive ‘hamster face’ appearance.

Other symptoms include headache, joint pain and fever. It's spread by close
contact or by coughing and sneezing. Your child is infectious for nine days or until the swelling goes down.


Rubella (also known as ‘German measles’ is usually a mild infection and was once common in children but is now seen less often due to vaccination. Symptoms include a distinctive red-pink skin rash, swollen glands and cold-like symptoms such as a fever, runny nose and headache.

It’s spread through personal contact, or by coughing and sneezing. Once you’ve had rubella you usually develop a lifelong immunity against further infection.

Your child is infectious from one week before the rash appears until at least four days after it’s gone. If a pregnant woman who doesn’t have immunity to rubella (due to previous infection or vaccination) is infected, the virus can cause serious harm to her unborn baby.

If your child develops any of these infectious diseases, you will need to keep them at home from daycare or school to stop it from spreading. Sometimes people who have been in contact with an infected child (including friends, siblings or other family members) may also need to be excluded from school or work. Your doctor can advise you about this.

The best way to protect your child from infection is through immunisation. The National Immunisation Program provides immunisations against these four diseases in the form the MMRV combination vaccine, or the MMR combination vaccine and a single vaccine for chickenpox, depending on your child’s age.

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Find out more about these infectious diseases:

Find out more about school exclusion periods if your child is infected:

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