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Mumps is a contagious viral infection that primarily affects the salivary glands, causing them to become swollen and tender. It is characterized by symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, fatigue, and pain while chewing or swallowing. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of mumps.

Causes of Mumps

Mumps is caused by the mumps virus, which belongs to the paramyxovirus family. It is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, the virus can be transmitted to others who are in close proximity. It can also spread through direct contact with infected saliva or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the face.

Symptoms of Mumps

The symptoms of mumps usually appear 16-18 days after exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Pain while chewing or swallowing

The swelling of the salivary glands, particularly the parotid glands located below and in front of the ears, gives the characteristic “chipmunk” appearance. The swelling can be accompanied by pain and tenderness.

Treatment for Mumps

Currently, there is no specific treatment for mumps. Most cases of mumps resolve on their own within two weeks. However, there are several measures that can be taken to alleviate the symptoms and promote recovery:

  • Rest: Getting plenty of rest helps the body fight off the infection and speeds up recovery.
  • Fluids: Staying hydrated is important, especially if there is a loss of appetite. Drinking water, clear soups, and electrolyte-rich beverages can help prevent dehydration.
  • Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce fever, relieve muscle aches, and alleviate pain.
  • Warm or cold compresses: Applying warm or cold compresses to the swollen glands can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Soft foods: Consuming soft foods that require minimal chewing can help ease discomfort while eating.

It is important to note that aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers with mumps, as it can increase the risk of developing a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.

Prevention of Mumps

The most effective way to prevent mumps is through vaccination. The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is routinely given to children at the age of 12-15 months, followed by a second dose at 4-6 years of age. The vaccine provides long-lasting immunity against mumps.

In addition to vaccination, practicing good hygiene can help reduce the risk of mumps:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or using the restroom.
  • Avoid sharing utensils, cups, or other personal items with infected individuals.
  • Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops.


Mumps is a viral infection that primarily affects the salivary glands, causing swelling and tenderness. It is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected saliva. The symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen salivary glands, loss of appetite, fatigue, and pain while chewing or swallowing. While there is no specific treatment for mumps, rest, fluids, pain relief, and soft foods can help alleviate symptoms. Vaccination and good hygiene practices are essential for preventing mumps. By taking these preventive measures, we can reduce the spread of mumps and protect ourselves and others from this contagious infection.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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