Mumps is a viral infection that primarily affects the parotid glands — one of three pairs of salivary glands, located below and in front of your ears. If you or your child contracts mumps, it can cause swelling in one or both parotid glands.
Complications of mumps are potentially serious, but rare — and your odds of contracting mumps aren't very high. Mumps was common until the mumps vaccine was licensed in the 1960s. Since then, the number of cases has dropped dramatically.
Because outbreaks of mumps still occur in the United States and mumps is still common in many parts of the world, getting a vaccination to prevent mumps is important.
You have three pairs of major salivary glands — parotid, sublingual and submandibular. Each gland has its own tube (duct) leading from the gland to the mouth. ...
Up to 1 in 5 people infected with the mumps virus has no signs or symptoms. When signs and symptoms do develop, they usually appear about two to three weeks after exposure to the virus and may include:
The primary — and best known — sign of mumps is swollen salivary glands that cause the cheeks to puff out. In fact, the term "mumps" is an old expression for lumps or bumps within the cheeks.
When to see a doctor
Other, rarer viruses can infect the parotid glands, causing a mumps-like illness.
Mumps is characterized by swollen, painful salivary glands in the face, causing the cheeks to puff out. ...
The cause of mumps is the mumps virus, which spreads easily from person to person through infected saliva. If you're not immune, you can contract mumps by breathing in saliva droplets of an infected person who has just sneezed or coughed. You can also contract mumps from sharing utensils or cups with someone who has mumps. Mumps is about as contagious as the flu (influenza).
Complications of mumps are potentially serious, but rare. These include:
Preparing for your appointment
Call your family doctor if you or your child has signs and symptoms common to mumps. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Information to gather in advance
The list below suggests questions to raise with your doctor about mumps.
Don't hesitate to ask more questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Rest as much as possible, and avoid contact with others until you've seen the doctor. Mumps is highly contagious within about the first week after symptoms first appear.
Tests and diagnosis
If your doctor suspects that you or your child has mumps, a virus culture or a blood test may be needed. The blood test can detect mumps antibodies, which indicate whether this is a recent or past infection.
Treatments and drugs
Because mumps is caused by a virus, antibiotics aren't effective. Like most viral illnesses, a mumps infection must simply run its course. Fortunately, most children and adults recover from an uncomplicated case of mumps within about two weeks.
As a general rule, you're no longer considered contagious and may safely return to work or school one week after a diagnosis of mumps.
In general, you're considered immune to mumps if you've previously had the infection or if you've been immunized against mumps.
The mumps vaccine is usually given as a combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) inoculation, which contains the safest and most effective form of each vaccine. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended before a child enters school:
In response to a mumps outbreak in the Midwest, college students and health care workers in particular are encouraged to make sure they've had two doses of the MMR vaccine. A single dose doesn't appear to offer sufficient protection during an outbreak. Since the recommendation for a second dose didn't begin until the late 1980s or early 1990s, many young adults may not have received their second dose and should have one now.
Do you need the MMR vaccine?
You should get a vaccine if you don't fit the criteria listed above and you:
The vaccine isn't recommended for:
If you have cancer, a blood disorder or another disease that affects your immune system, talk to your doctor before getting an MMR vaccine.
Side effects of the vaccine
Although concerns have been raised about a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, extensive reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that there's no scientifically proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
In addition, there's no scientific benefit in separating these vaccines. These organizations note that autism (autism spectrum disorder) is often identified in toddlers between the ages of 18 and 30 months, which happens to be about the time children are given their first MMR vaccine. But this coincidence in timing shouldn't be mistaken for a cause-and-effect relationship.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you or your child has mumps, time and rest are the best treatments. There's little your doctor can do to speed recovery. But you can take some steps to ease pain and discomfort and keep others from becoming infected:
If your child has mumps, the most important thing you can do is to watch for complications. Call your doctor if your child develops:
Last Updated: 2010-05-04
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