Facts on Mumps
- Mumps is a disease, usually of children, caused by a virus. With mumps, your salivary glands swell. Specifically, these are the parotid glands, and they are located below and in front of each ear.
- The virus is spread by direct contact with an infected person's sneeze or cough. Humans are the only known natural hosts. The disease is more severe if you get it as an adult.
- With nearly universal immunization in childhood, there are fewer than 1,000 cases of mumps in the U.S. in a typical year. Most of the reported cases are in children 5-14 years of age. The infection is more common during late winter and spring.
What Causes Mumps?
Mumps is mainly caused by a virus. The incubation period (from initial infection to symptoms) is from 16-18 days, ranging from 12-25 days after exposure. The period when someone is most infectious to others is from one to two days before and five days after the onset of swelling in the glands.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Mumps?
- Early symptoms are uncommon but may include fever, loss of appetite, achiness, and headache. Temperature is moderately high, usually lasting for three to four days.
- Swelling of the glands under and in front of the ear usually starts on one side and then progresses to the other side rapidly. Swelling may last from seven to 10 days. Eating or drinking acidic or citric foods causes much discomfort.
- Other symptoms may include testicular pain (in males), abdominal pain, seizures, stiff neck, and difficulty swallowing.
When to Call a Doctor for Mumps
Call the doctor and go to your hospital's emergency department if your child develops these conditions:
How Is Mumps Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of mumps should be considered when the child has parotid swelling on one or both sides. The child may have a fever and tenderness in these glands just under and in front of the ears.
Are There Home Remedies for Mumps?
The treatment of mumps is mainly to relieve the symptoms.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat properly. The diet should be light.
- Pain relievers other than aspirin may be used for comfort.
- For most children, the swelling in their glands goes away in a week. Any child with mumps should not return to school or day care for nine days after the start of parotid swelling.
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How Do You Prevent Mumps?
What Is the Prognosis for Mumps?
Most children recover without any serious complications from mumps.
- Orchitis is a common complication with mumps after puberty, but sterility occurs in 13% of these patients.
- Mumps infection during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the rate of spontaneous abortion, but there is no evidence it increases the risk for birth defects.
- Rare complications include arthritis, meningitis, encephalitis, pancreatitis, deafness, and inflammation of the heart.
Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Summary of Notifiable Diseases – United States 2010." MMWR 59.53 June 1, 2012: 1-111. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5953a1.htm>.