Facts on Mumps

Mumps is a viral illness that attacks the salivary glands and causes swelling in the face.
  • 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.
    • Orchitis (inflammation of one or both testicles) is the most feared complication of mumps. This condition causes severe pain, swelling, and tenderness in a male's testicles. Orchitis is mostly on one side but can involve both testicles.

When to Call a Doctor for Mumps

Call the doctor and go to your hospital's emergency department if your child develops these conditions:

  • Dehydrated and unable to keep any fluids down
  • Continuing vomiting
  • Lethargic (weak and listless)
  • Pain or a stiff neck
  • Abdominal pain
  • Enlarged and painful scrotum

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.

What Is the Treatment for Mumps?

The treatment of mumps requires over-the-counter pain relievers for swelling and fever. The child should be kept well hydrated, so encourage the child to drink liquids.

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.

How Do You Prevent Mumps?

All children in the United States are routinely immunized against mumps with the combined vaccine called MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).

What Is the Prognosis for Mumps?

Most children recover without any serious complications from mumps.

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. <>.