Rubella (german measles) is a rare infection. It's usually a mild condition that gets better without treatment in 7 to 10 days. Having the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to prevent it.

Symptoms of rubella

Symptoms of rubella include:

  • a red-pink skin rash made up of small spots
  • swollen glands around the head and neck
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • cold-like symptoms such as a cough and runny nose
  • aching and painful joints – more common in adults

The symptoms of rubella usually only last a few days, but your glands may be swollen for several weeks.

red spotty rash
Rubella rash DermNet

Immediate action required: Contact your GP or midwife if:

  • you're pregnant and develop a rash or come into contact with someone who has a rash

Non-urgent advice: Phone your GP if:

  • you think you or your child might have rubella

If your GP is closed, phone 111.

You should phone your GP first before visiting. They can make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.

Who's affected?

Rubella is rare in the UK now. Most cases occur in people who came to the UK from countries that don't offer routine immunisation against rubella.

How rubella is spread

The rubella virus (togavirus) is contained in tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

You can catch rubella by breathing in these droplets. Or, if the droplets have settled on a surface, by touching the surface and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth.

It can take 2 to 3 weeks for symptoms to develop.

How to prevent spreading rubella to others

If you have rubella, you'll be infectious to other people from 1 week before symptoms develop, and for up to 4 days after the rash first appears.

If you have rubella:

  • stay off school or work for 4 days after the rash starts
  • avoid close contact with pregnant women

How rubella can be prevented

Rubella can be prevented by having the MMR vaccine.

This is given in 2 doses as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

You can be vaccinated at any age if you haven't been fully vaccinated before.

Treating rubella

There are things you can do to help relieve your symptoms.


  • get plenty of rest
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains – aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years old
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration

Rubella and pregnancy

Rubella is usually only serious if a pregnant woman catches the infection during the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy.

This is because the rubella virus can disrupt the development of the baby and cause a wide range of health problems, including:

The birth defects caused by the rubella virus are known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). The earlier in the pregnancy, the greater the risk. There's no treatment known to be effective in preventing CRS. There isn't thought to be any risk of CRS developing if you're infected with rubella after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Since the introduction of the MMR vaccine, CRS is now very rare in the UK.

Information about you

If you or your child has rubella, your clinical team will pass information about you or your child on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).

This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the register.

Last updated:
27 June 2023