Mumps: Symptoms and Treatments

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Mumps is a severe viral illness that results in swollen salivary glands. It spreads through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat. An infected person can spread the virus by:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or talking
  • Sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils, with others
  • Touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others

Mumps likely spreads before the salivary glands begin to swell, which results in puffy cheeks or jaw.

The Symptoms

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides

Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12-25 days after infection. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease.

The Treatments

Since mumps is a virus, it doesn’t respond to antibiotics. However, you can treat the symptoms to make yourself more comfortable while you’re sick.

  • Rest your body. You will feel weak or tired for a couple weeks. Don’t overdo your activities.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers to bring down your fever.
  • Soothe swollen glands by applying ice packs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Chewing can be painful when your glands are swollen. Eat a soft diet of soup or yogurt.
  • Avoid acidic foods and beverages that may cause more pain in your salivary glands.

You can usually return to work or school about one week after a doctor diagnoses your mumps, if you feel up to it. By this point, you’re no longer contagious. Mumps usually runs its course in a couple of weeks.

Most people who get mumps can’t contract the disease a second time. Having the virus once protects you against becoming infected again.

What to Know

Mumps remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including areas in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Anyone who is not protected against mumps is at risk of getting infected when they travel internationally.

Before traveling internationally, people should be protected against mumps. Children 12 months of age or older should have two doses of the mumps vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.

Teenagers and adults without evidence of immunity to mumps should have two doses of the mumps vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.

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