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Childhood illnesses - Mumps

Useful information on the causes, childhood prevention vaccine, symptoms and treatment of mumps.
Mumps (Epidemic parotitis) is a viral illness which causes swelling around the cheeks and neck. Prior to the development of vaccination, it was a common childhood disease worldwide, and is still a significant threat to health in the third world. It causes painful enlargement of the salivary or parotid glands.

Causes and risks

The mumps are caused by a paramyxovirus, which is spread from person to person by saliva droplets or direct contact with articles that have been contaminated with infected saliva. The parotid glands (the salivary glands between the ear and the jaw) are usually involved. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 are most commonly infected, but the infection can occur in other age groups. In older people, other organs may become involved including the testes, the central nervous system, the pancreas, the prostate, the breasts, and other organs. The incubation period is usually 12 to 24 days.


MMR immunisation (vaccine) protects against measles, mumps and rubella and should be given to children 15 months old. The vaccination is repeated in some locations between 4 to 6 years of age, or between 11 and 12 years of age if not previously given.

  • face pain
  • swelling of the parotid glands (neck swelling)
  • fever
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • swelling of the temples or jaw (temporomandibular area)
Additional symptoms in males that may be associated with this disease:
  • testicular pain
  • testicular enlargement
  • scrotal swelling
Signs and tests

A physical examination confirms the presence of the swollen glands. Usually the disease is diagnosed on clinical grounds and no confirmatory laboratory testing is needed.


There is no specific treatment for mumps. Symptoms may be relieved by the application of intermittent ice or heat to the affected neck area, acetaminophen, oral for pain relief (do not give aspirin to children with a viral illness because of the risk of Reye's syndrome). Warm salt water gargles, soft foods, and extra fluids may also help relieve symptoms.


The probable outcome is good, even if other organs are involved. Sterility in men from involvement of the testes is very rare. After the illness, life-long immunity to mumps occurs.

  • Meningitis
  • infection of other organ systems
  • sterility in men (rare)
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