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
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
- Face pain
- 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
Exams and Tests
A physical examination confirms the presence of the swollen glands. No testing is usually required.
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
Patients usually do well, even if other organs are involved. After the illness, the patient has a life-long immunity to the mumps.
Infection of other organs may occur, including orchitis.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you or your child has mumps and:
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if convulsions occur.
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.
Mason WH. Mumps. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF. Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 240.
Litman N, Baum SG. Mumps virus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 157.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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