Mumps is an infection caused by a virus. It can infect many parts of the body,
but is best known for causing swelling of the parotid glands. These glands, which
make saliva (spit), are in front of the ear, around the jaw.
Mumps used to be a common childhood illness in the United States, especially in
kids 5 to 9 years old. It's much rarer now, thanks to the mumps
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Mumps?
Many kids have no symptoms, or very mild symptoms that feel like a cold.
Those who do get symptoms might:
Within a couple days, the parotid glands can swell and get painful. This makes
the cheeks look puffy. The pain gets worse when the child swallows, talks, chews,
or drinks acidic juices (like orange juice). One or both parotid glands can swell.
Sometimes one swells a few days before the other.
Mumps is contagious. It spreads in tiny drops of fluid when someone with the virus sneezes, coughs, talks,
or laughs. Contact with objects they use — like dirty tissues, straws, or drinking
glasses — also can pass the virus. If they don't wash
their hands, any surface they touch can spread mumps to others who touch it.
Someone with mumps is most contagious from 2 days before symptoms start to 5 days
after they end. Anyone who is infected can pass the disease, even if they don't have
Who Gets Mumps?
Mumps happens most often in school-age kids and college students. Outbreaks are
rare, but can happen. An outbreak is when many people from one area come down with
the same disease. Experts are looking into why outbreaks still happen and ways to
Most people who get mumps never get it again.
How Is Mumps Diagnosed?
Call the doctor if your child has any mumps symptoms or has been around someone
with mumps. The doctor might give you special instructions before you go to the office
to protect other patients from the virus.
The doctor will do an exam, ask about symptoms, and check to see if your child
got the mumps vaccine. Doctors sometimes send a saliva sample or blood sample for
How Is Mumps Treated?
There's no specific medical treatment for mumps. To help manage symptoms:
Give your child plenty of fluids and soft foods that are easy to chew. Don't give
tart or acidic fruit juices (like orange juice, grapefruit juice, or lemonade) that
can make parotid gland pain worse.
Soothe swollen parotid glands with either warm or cool compresses (whichever feels
Help your child get plenty of rest.
Kids with mumps should stay home for 5 days from the start of parotid gland swelling.
Ask your doctor about when your child can return to school or childcare.
Mumps is caused by a virus, so it can't be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics
work only against bacteria.
How Long Does Mumps Last?
Most children with mumps recover fully in about 2 weeks.
Can Mumps Be Prevented?
The best way to protect your kids is to make sure they're immunized
For most kids, mumps protection is part of the measles-mumps-rubella
vaccine (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine (MMRV). They get these
when they're 12–15 months old and again when they're 4–6 years old.
Sometimes people who have been vaccinated still get mumps. But their symptoms will
be much milder than if they had not gotten the vaccine.
During a mumps outbreak, doctors may recommend more shots of the MMR vaccine for
some people who are more likely to get mumps. Your doctor will have the most current
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Mumps can sometimes cause rare but severe problems. Call the doctor right away
if your child has mumps and:
Watch for belly pain. It can be a sign of problems with the pancreas in either
boys or girls, or the ovaries in girls. In boys, watch for high fever with pain and
swelling of the testicles.
What Else Should I Know?
Other viral infections can cause inflamed parotid glands, such as the
flu or coxsackievirus,
which are much more common than mumps. Some bacterial infections also can cause it.
Rarely, a blockage in the parotid gland (from a salivary stone, which is like a kidney
stone) can cause painful swelling.