The best way to avoid catching rubella is to be immunised with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
The MMR vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme. One dose is usually given to a child when they are 12-13 months old. A second booster dose is given before they start school, usually between three and five years old.
Contact your GP if you are uncertain about whether your child's vaccinations are up to date.
It is also possible to have the MMR vaccination at any age. If you suspect that your immunisation is not up to date and you are at risk of catching mumps, measles or rubella, your GP may recommend that you have the MMR vaccine. For example, this may be necessary if there is an outbreak of measles, or if you are a woman planning to get pregnant (see below).
If you are already immunised, having the MMR vaccine again will not cause you any harm.
Planning a pregnancy
If you are considering trying for a baby, ask your GP to test your immunity to rubella before you become pregnant. As immunity to rubella can sometimes wear off over time (even if you have had the MMR vaccine), it is important that your immunity level is checked by your GP before every pregnancy.
If the test shows you may not be immune to rubella, you will be offered the MMR vaccine to protect you against rubella. You can have the MMR vaccine before you become pregnant, but it is not recommended during pregnancy. After having the MMR vaccine, you should take care to avoid becoming pregnant for one month.
If you are pregnant
If you are pregnant, you will be offered a rubella immunity blood test by your GP or midwife as part of your antenatal care. Most women are immune and no further action is required.
If you are not immune to rubella, try to avoid anyone who has the rubella virus. Inform your GP if you come into contact with anyone who has the rubella virus.
You can receive the MMR vaccination after giving birth to protect you against rubella in the future. The MMR vaccine can be given to breastfeeding mothers without any risk to their baby.
Limiting the spread of infection
Someone who has the rubella virus is infectious for one week before symptoms appear and for around four days after the rash first develops.
If you or your child have rubella, you should limit the risk of infecting other people by staying off work or school for six days after you develop the rash.
You should also try to avoid contact with pregnant women for at least six days from the start of the rash.
- Antibodies are your body's natural defence against any foreign antigens that enter your blood. An antibody is a protein that is produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.