Mumps: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Mumps is a common childhood viral infection usually characterised by a swelling of the parotid gland. Find out how to diagnose mumps, as well as the likely complications and treatment methods.

Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection that causes pain and swelling in the parotid glands (the glands which produce saliva). It is contagious in the days prior to the appearance of mumps symptoms to a few days after the symptoms disappear. The incubation period is about 18 days and one attack gives lifelong immunity. 

Mumps treatment is widely available. Although rare, serious complications, such as a brain infection, orchitis, deafness and pancreatitis, may occur. A routine vaccination programme against mumps in Singapore has resulted in a significant drop in cases.

Although mumps may affect adults, children between the ages of five to 15 years are the most vulnerable.

Mumps Causes and Risk Factors

The mumps (paramyxovirus) virus is spread by coughing, sneezing, and through the saliva of an infected person. It can also spread through contact with contaminated items and surfaces.

Mumps Symptoms and Signs

Facial pain
Swollen parotid glands in neck, temples or jaw
Fever, headache and sore throat

Mumps Complications

Although rare, mumps complications are possible, especially if not diagnosed and treated early.

These include:
Orchitis, with pain or lumps in male patients’ testicles and swelling in the scrotum. This may rarely cause long-term infertility problems.
Meningoencephalitis (infection of the central nervous system), with low to no risk of permanent damage.
Pancreatitis with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Hearing impairment or loss, which may be permanent, in one or both ears is a very rare complication.

Mumps Treatment

Following a mumps diagnosis, doctors typically prescribe medication to relieve its symptoms. Paracetamol helps to reduce fever and relieve pain. For young children, avoid aspirin due to the risk of contracting Reye's syndrome, a brain problem that may develop in children who take aspirin to treat certain viral infections, including mumps.

Warm or cold compresses can be given to relieve pain and swelling in the parotid glands. Cool compresses and scrotal support may help reduce pain and swelling in the testicles.

Avoid foods that stimulate the parotid glands (stimulating the glands causes pain) such as fruit juices and sour beverages.

Mumps Prevention

Mumps can be prevented by administering the Mumps, Measles, Rubella (MMR) vaccine. This vaccine is given when the child is 12 months old and between 15 to 18 months of age, with effect from 1 December 2011 in Singapore. ​

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