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Mumps is a viral illness that infects the salivary glands. These glands produce saliva in the mouth. The main salivary gland (parotid gland) is located at the angle of the jaw, just below the ear, on each side of the face. During a mumps infection these glands become swollen and tender. The ears may hurt although there is no ear infection. There may also be a rash.

Mumps most often occurs in children 5-14 years, but does occasionally occur in adolescents and young adults, as well. Mumps causes a low grade fever, headache and loss of appetite. Usually, both parotid glands swell and give a puffy cheeks. Swelling and pain in these glands increases over 1-3 days. It may hurt to swallow, talk, chew or drink acidic juices. (Acid foods stimulate the parotid gland to produce saliva).

In rare cases, mumps can involve the brain (causing encephalitis), and the lining of the spinal cord (causing meningitis). Adolescents and young men with a case of mumps may develop orchitis, a painful swelling of the testicles. Young women may develop mumps infection in the ovary. This causes pain in the abdomen.

If you have mumps, you are contagious two days before symptoms begin until five days after the symptoms disappear. The virus spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing, or by direct contact (touching the sick person and then touching your own eyes, nose, or mouth). It takes about 2-3 weeks to develop the infection after an exposure. It takes 10 to 12 days to recover.

Treatment is aimed at symptom relief only. Since mumps is caused by a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Home Care:

  • Either hot or cold packs applied to the cheeks may give relief.  Apply an ice pack (ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel) over the injured area for 20 minutes every 1-2 hours as needed.  When using heat, you may apply a towel soaked in warm water and placed inside a plastic bag.  A gel pack (available in drug stores) can be frozen or warmed in a microwave. Wrap this in a cloth or towel to protect the skin from too much hot or cold.  Use the method that feels best.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Eat a soft, bland diet that does not require a lot of chewing.

  • Avoid acidic fruit juices (orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade).

  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control pain and fever, unless another medicine was prescribed for this. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.] (Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.)

  • If you are a male with testicle pain, use scrotal support (briefs instead of boxers) and ice packs for testicular pain.

  • Anyone with mumps should not go back to child care, school or work for 5 days after symptoms begin.

Follow Up

with your doctor as advised by our staff. Anyone who has come in contact with you while sick should review their immunization status with their doctor. If they have not received mumps vaccine (included in the MMR vaccine), they should be vaccinated. Notify your doctor if you are pregnant. Mumps increases the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Stiff neck, severe headache, convulsions (seizures), extreme drowsiness, or changes in alertness.

  • Testicle pain

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) oral or higher, not better with fever medication

  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain

  • Hearing loss in one or both ears


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