Definition

Mumps is a contagious disease that leads to painful swelling of the salivary glands. The salivary glands produce saliva, a liquid that moistens food and helps you chew and swallow.

See also: Salivary gland infections

Alternative Names

Epidemic parotitis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The mumps are caused by a virus. The virus is spread from person-to-person by respiratory droplets (for example, when you sneeze) or by direct contact with items that have been contaminated with infected saliva.

Mumps most commonly occurs in children ages 2 – 12 who have not been vaccinated against the disease. However, the infection can occur at any age. The time between being exposed to the virus and getting sick (incubation period) is usually 12 – 24 days.

Mumps may also infect the:

  • Central nervous system
  • Pancreas
  • Testes

Symptoms

  • Face pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swelling of the parotid glands (the largest salivary glands, located between the ear and the jaw)
  • Swelling of the temples or jaw (temporomandibular area)

Other symptoms of this disease that can occur in males:

  • Testicle lump
  • Testicle pain
  • Scrotal swelling

Signs and tests

A physical examination confirms the presence of the swollen glands. No testing is usually required.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for mumps. Ice or heat packs applied to the neck area and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help relieve pain. Do not give aspirin to children with a viral illness because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

You can also relieve symptoms with:

  • Extra fluids
  • Soft foods
  • Warm salt water gargles

Expectations (prognosis)

Patients usually do well, even if other organs are involved. After the illness, the patient has a life-long immunity to the mumps.

Complications

Infection of other organs may occur, including orchitis.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you or your child has mumps and:

  • Eye redness
  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Persistent vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Severe headache
  • Testicle pain or a testicle lump

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if convulsions occur.

Prevention

MMR immunization (vaccine) protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. It should be given to children 12 – 15 months old. The vaccine is given again between ages 4 – 6, or between ages 11 – 12, if it wasn’t given before.

Recent outbreaks of the mumps have reinforced the importance of having all children vaccinated.

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