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What are Mumps?

Mumps is a virus-borne ailment that spreads easily by saliva and mucous. It is most prevalent in children who have not been immunised.

Mumps can affect any area of the body, but the saliva-producing glands beneath and in front of the ears (parotid glands) are the most commonly affected. If infected, those glands can enlarge. The virus’s common indicators are a swollen jaw and puffed cheeks.

What are the Symptoms Of Mumps?

Mumps symptoms usually show two to three weeks after an individual has been infected. However, over 20% of people infected with the virus show no signs or symptoms at all.

Flu-like symptoms will first develop, such as:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

The typical symptoms of mumps will then emerge within the next few days. The main symptom is the swelling of the parotid glands, which are the largest salivary glands and pain within the region. This would also cause the cheeks to appear more puffed. The swelling usually develops in waves rather than all at once.

Other symptoms that may be present include:

  • Swelling and pain on the sides of the face.
  • Joint aches.
  • Dry mouth.
  • High fever.
  • Pain when swallowing.
  • Swallowing difficulties.

What Causes Mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus called paramyxovirus, otherwise known as the mumps virus.  It is spread through respiratory secretions (such as saliva) from a person who has already been infected with the disease. When you get mumps, the virus spreads from your respiratory tract to your salivary glands, where it reproduces and causes the glands to enlarge.

The spreading of mumps can occur in a number of ways, including:

  • Talking, coughing or sneezing.
  • Sharing cups and utensils.
  • Sharing food and drinks.
  • Kissing or other close contacts
  • Contact with other objects

Mumps are typically contagious for about 15 days after an individual has been infected (6 days prior to the onset of symptoms and up to 9 days from the onset of symptoms).

Do Mumps Go Away On Their Own? (And what Treatments Are Available?)

As mumps are a viral infection, the use of antibiotics would be ineffective. There are currently no medicine or antiviral drugs available to treat mumps.

Measles and Mumps: Here's What You Need to Know

Similar to a cold, current treatment can only assist ease symptoms until the infection has come to an end and the body has developed immunity. The majority of individuals recover from mumps in less than two weeks.

Here are some ways to alleviate the symptoms of mumps:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water; avoid fruit juices, which encourage saliva production, which might cause further pain.
  • Apply a cold pack to the swollen area to reduce the pain.
  • Minimise chewing. Consume more mushy and watery food.
  • Gargle with warm salt water.
  • Take over-the-counter medications, such as non-aspirin pain relievers.

Vaccination for mumps is the most effective way to prevent mumps; it can be purchased separately or may be included as part of the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine protects against measles and rubella as well.

The MMR vaccine is typically given to newborns when they are just over a year old, and then again just before they attend school as a booster.

Individuals born after the 1990s would have almost certainly received the MMR vaccine, but it’s always a good idea to double-check with a doctor if you are not certain.

Adults can be administered the MMR vaccine at any age, and a doctor may urge someone to get it before travelling to specific parts of the world.

Another reason an adult may be encouraged to get the MMR vaccine is if they are:

  • Working in the medical field, such as in a hospital or medical centre.
  • Working or attending a college with a large number of young people.
  • Working in a school or any other environment where they would be in close proximity to a large number of children.