Mumps is a viral infection that primarily affects saliva-producing (salivary) glands that are located near your ears. Mumps can cause swelling in one or both of these glands.
Mumps was common in the United States until mumps vaccination became routine. Since then, the number of cases has dropped dramatically.
Complications of mumps, such as hearing loss, are potentially serious but rare. There's no specific treatment for mumps.
Some people infected with the mumps virus have either no signs or symptoms or very mild ones. When signs and symptoms do develop, they usually appear about two to three weeks after exposure to the virus.
The primary sign of mumps is swollen salivary glands that cause the cheeks to puff out. Other signs and symptoms may include:
# Pain in the swollen salivary glands on one or both sides of your face
# Pain while chewing or swallowing
# Muscle aches
# Weakness and fatigue
# Loss of appetite
See your doctor if you or your child has signs and symptoms of mumps. Mumps is highly contagious for about nine days after symptoms appear. Tell your doctor's office before you go in that you suspect mumps so arrangements can be made to avoid spreading the virus to others in the waiting room.
In the meantime:
# Rest as much as possible
# Try to ease symptoms with cold compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)
Mumps has become uncommon, so it's possible that another condition is causing your signs and symptoms. Swollen salivary glands and a fever could indicate:
# A blocked salivary gland
# A different viral infection
Mumps is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person through infected saliva. If you're not immune, you can contract mumps by breathing in saliva droplets from an infected person who has just sneezed or coughed. You can also contract mumps from sharing utensils or cups with someone who has mumps.
Complications of mumps are rare, but some are potentially serious.
Most mumps complications involve inflammation and swelling in some part of the body, such as:
Testicles. This condition, known as orchitis, causes one or both testicles to swell in males who've reached puberty. Orchitis is painful, but it rarely leads to the inability to father a child (sterility).
Brain. Viral infections such as mumps can lead to inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Encephalitis can cause neurological problems and become life-threatening.
Membranes and fluid around the brain and spinal cord. This condition, known as meningitis, can occur if the mumps virus spreads through your bloodstream to infect your central nervous system.
Pancreas. The signs and symptoms of this condition, known as pancreatitis, include pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting.
Other complications of mumps include:
Hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur in one or both ears. Although rare, the hearing loss is sometimes permanent.
Heart problems. Rarely, mumps has been associated with abnormal heartbeat and diseases of the heart muscle.
Miscarriage. Contracting mumps while you're pregnant, especially early in your pregnancy, may lead to miscarriage.
The best way to prevent mumps is to be vaccinated against the disease. Most people have immunity to mumps once they're fully vaccinated.
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. Those vaccines should be given when the child is:
# Between the ages of 12 and 15 months
# Between the ages of 4 and 6 years
College students, international travelers and health care workers in particular are encouraged to make sure they've had two doses of the MMR vaccine. A single dose is not completely effective at preventing mumps.
A third dose of vaccine isn't routinely recommended. But your doctor might recommend a third dose if you are in an area that is experiencing an outbreak. A study of a recent mumps outbreak on a college campus showed that students who received a third dose of MMR vaccine had a much lower risk of contracting the disease.
Imput from Mayo Clinic