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Mumps

What is mumps?

Mumps is an acute and highly contagious viral illness that usually occurs in childhood, but can be caught at any age. Mumps infects the parotid glands (one pair of salivary glands). One of the symptoms of mumps is swelling in the throat and jaw.

Mumps is spread by contact with fluids from the mouth, nose, and throat when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The virus can also live on surfaces like doorknobs, eating utensils, and soft drink cans. The virus can be transferred to these items when used by a person who has the mumps. The virus is spread when another person uses these items and then rubs their nose or mouth. The disease usually takes two to three weeks to appear. Cases of mumps in the U.S. have declined dramatically with the introduction of the mumps vaccine.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Discomfort in the salivary glands, especially those in the jaw area, which may become swollen and tender. Some may have difficulty talking and experience an earache. 

  • Difficulty eating and chewing

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

The symptoms of mumps may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always see your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.

What complications are commonly associated with mumps?

Complications of mumps occur more frequently among adults than children, and may include the following:

  • Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain.

  • Orchitis. Inflammation of the testicle, causing pain and tenderness of the testicles, rarely leads to infertility problems.

  • Mastitis. Inflammation and tenderness of breast tissue.

  • Oophoritis. Inflammation of the ovary, which may cause abdominal pain and vomiting.

  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.

  • Deafness

How is mumps diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, your child's health care provider may also take a saliva and/or urinary culture to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Specific treatment for mumps will be determined by your child's health care provider based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment is usually limited to pain relievers and plenty of fluids. Sometimes, bed rest is necessary the first few days.

How can mumps be prevented?

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccination against mumps, measles, and rubella. MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had mumps are immune for life.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is administered when a child is 12 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was administered, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.

According to the CDC, children should stay out of school until symptoms have subsided. Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should minimize contact with other people in their homes. Good basic hygiene, such as thorough hand-washing, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, and regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces, are also important to keep from spreading the disease.

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 8/24/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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