Mumps is a contagious viral illness that most commonly affects children. It is characterized by fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and swelling of the salivary glands (parotitis). The parotid glands are located in front of and below the ears.
The mumps virus is spread through saliva and respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects, such as shared utensils or cups.
The incubation period for mumps is 16 to 18 days, with a range of 12 to 25 days. Symptoms usually appear 16 to 18 days after exposure to the virus.
In addition to parotitis, other symptoms of mumps may include:
- Fever of up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius)
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
In rare cases, mumps can cause more serious complications, such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and orchitis (inflammation of the testicles).
There is no specific treatment for mumps. Treatment is usually supportive and includes rest, fluids, and pain relievers. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary to manage complications.
The best way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) is usually given in two doses, the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age.
If you think you or your child may have mumps, see your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent complications.
Here are some additional things to keep in mind about mumps:
- Mumps is a very contagious disease. People who are infected with mumps are contagious from 4 days before to 9 days after the onset of parotitis.
- There is no specific treatment for mumps. Treatment is usually supportive and includes rest, fluids, and pain relievers.
- In rare cases, mumps can cause serious complications, such as meningitis, encephalitis, pancreatitis, and orchitis.
- The best way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine is usually given in two doses, the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age.