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.
The mumps are caused by a virus. The virus is spread from person to person by drops of moisture from your respiratory tract, such as when you sneeze. It is also spread through direct contact with items that have infected saliva on them.
Mumps most often 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 about 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 pain
- Scrotal swelling
Exams and Tests
A physical exam shows swollen glands. No testing is required in most cases.
There is no specific treatment for mumps.
Things you can do to relieve symptoms include:
- Apply ice or heat packs to the neck area.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain. (Do not give aspirin to children with a viral illness because of the risk for Reye syndrome.)
- Drink extra fluid.
- Eat soft foods.
- Gargle with warm salt water.
People with this disease do well most of the time, even if organs are involved. After the illness is over, you will be immune to mumps for the rest of your life.
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.