Mumps

What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious viral infection. The mumps virus is spread via saliva droplets which are released into the air when coughing or sneezing or by sharing cups or cutlery. The most common symptom is a swelling of the face under the ears, along with a fever, sore throat and tiredness. The condition usually gets better without causing serious complications. Treatment is limited to painkillers, cool compresses on the swollen face and plenty of rest and fluids. Vaccination against mumps is a very effective form of prevention. Most people who have mumps will get better within around a week.

Risks

Mumps is a viral infection that is spread through infected saliva droplets which are released into the air when coughing or sneezing, sharing utensils or by touching objects or surfaces that have been touched by someone that is infected. Mumps is more common in children than adults.

Symptoms

Symptoms appear within three weeks after catching the virus. The most common symptom is a swelling of the cheeks and jaw. The swelling can occur on one or on both sides of the face. Other symptoms include a fever, headaches, a sore throat, feeling sick and tiredness. Although complications are rare, mumps can cause meningitis (swelling of the tissues around the brain), painful swelling of the testicles, abdominal pain or hearing loss.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is based on the symptoms and physical examination. Testing saliva for the virus may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for mumps. Most treatment aims to relieve symptoms. People with mumps should rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Cool flannels or packs on the face may help to reduce the swelling. Pain and fever can be eased by taking paracetamol or ibuprofen. As chewing can be painful, soft food or soups may be helpful.

Prevention

The vaccine against mumps (the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine) is part of the childhood vaccination schedule. Keeping to the recommended vaccination schedule is important in preventing episodes of mumps. People who have mumps should stay at home for at least 5 days after symptoms begin, to prevent passing the virus to other people.

Other names for mumps

  • Epidemic parotitis
  • Infectious parotitis