What is mumps?

Mumps is an acute and highly contagious viral illness that usually occurs in childhood. Spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract, the disease usually takes two to three weeks to appear. Cases of mumps in the US have declined dramatically with the introduction of the mumps vaccine.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • mild sickness
  • discomfort in the salivary glands, which may become swollen and tender
  • difficulty chewing
  • fever
  • headache
  • pain in salivary glands when eating sour foods

The symptoms of mumps may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Complications commonly associated with mumps:

Complications of mumps occur more frequently among adults than children, and may include:

  • meningitis - an inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord.
  • orchitis - inflammation of the testicle.
  • mastitis - inflammation of breast tissue.
  • oophoritis - inflammation of the ovary.
  • pancreatitis - inflammation of the pancreas.

How is mumps diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, your physician may also take a saliva and/or urinary culture to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for mumps:

Specific treatment for mumps will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your overall health and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment is usually limited to painkillers and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bedrest is necessary the first few days. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have subsided.

Prevention of mumps:

Childhood vaccinations against mumps (usually in combination with the measles and rubella) provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.