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Mumps

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Epidemic parotitis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

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:

Symptoms

Other symptoms of this disease that can occur in males:

Signs and tests

A physical examination confirms the presence of the swollen glands. No testing is usually required.

Treatment

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

Expectations (prognosis)

Patients usually do well, even if other organs are involved. After the illness, the patient has a life-long immunity to the mumps.

Complications

Infection of other organs may occur, including orchitis.

Calling your health care provider

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.

Prevention

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.

References

Mason WH. Mumps. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF. Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 245.

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.


Review Date: 5/13/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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