Mumps is a viral infection spread through airborne droplets which are expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The infection affects the parotid salivary glands which are located just below and in front of the ears. It causes the glands to swell and become painful, creating a 'hamster-like' appearance. The virus that is most commonly responsible for mumps is the paramyxovirus.
Other Symptoms of Mumps may Include:Pain when swallowing and chewing food
High temperature (37.5-39.5C) and fever
Lack of appetite
Swollen ovaries or testes
After coming into contact with the mumps virus it can take up to 21 days before you actually notice any symptoms. You are most contagious about six days before the swelling of the glands to about five days after. Usually the swelling face goes down after a few days, but it can take up to eight days to disappear completely.
In most people the symptoms are fairly mild, and a third of people experience no symptoms at all. In rare cases there can be severe complications such as meningitis or deafness.
MMR VaccineMumps is fairly rare in the UK now because children are routinely immunised against it as part of the MMR jab. When you are vaccinated, antibodies remain in your body to fight off the disease if you ever come into contact with it again. However, at one point there was suspicion that the MMR vaccine caused autism, so many parents decided not to get their children immunised. Due to this, the number of cases of mumps in the UK increased in the following years. Numerous studies have been carried out to investigate the link between MMR and autism, but the results show there is absolutely no link at all.
Mumps DiagnosisIf you think you or your child has mumps you should visit your GP. They can usually diagnose you based on the symptoms you are suffering and by feeling the swelling around your face and neck. They can look inside your mouth to see if your tonsils have been pushed out of their usual position.
A blood, urine or cerebrospinal fluid test (CSF) is sometimes done to confirm the diagnosis. These methods tend to be used in cases where the symptoms are severe or there are complications.
Mumps TreatmentThere is no specific treatment for mumps. You should make a natural recovery, and once you have had mumps the antibodies remain in your body so it is unlikely you will get it again.
You can take some simple measures to aid your recovery:
Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated
Avoid fruit juice because it stimulates saliva production, which can be painful
Mild painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol help to ease a fever. Asprin should not be given to children under 16
Hold a warm flannel against your swollen glands to soothe the pain
Adolescent boys and men who have severe inflammation of the testes may be prescribed a stronger painkiller, or steroid drugs called corticosteroids.
Mumps PreventionThe most effective way of protecting your child from mumps is for them to have the MMR vaccination. The first MMR vaccination should be given when your child is about 13 months old, and a booster jab should be given when they are between three and five years old. If your child missed out on the vaccinations, they can be done at any age as long as there is a month between doses. However, it is strongly recommended that children receive both doses before they start school..
If your child has not been vaccinated and develops mumps, it is important to keep them away from school and other children for several days after the glands swell as they are very contagious at this point.
ComplicationsIn some cases of mumps, serious complications can arise.
A quarter of men over 12 years old who catch mumps develop inflammation of one or both testicles. This is known as orchitis and can be very painful, especially if both testes are affected. In very rare cases, females may experience swelling of the ovaries (oophritis). There is evidence that suggests that swelling of the testes or ovaries can lead to lower fertility. However, it is extremely rare that it will lead to sterility.
Mumps can cause other parts of your body to become inflamed like the brain (encephalitis), the pancreas and the thyroid glands. The meninges is the system of membranes which lines the nervous system and if these become inflamed it can lead to meningitis.
Another rare complication associated with mumps is deafness in one ear.
If you are planning to get pregnant you should make sure you have had the MMR vaccine before you become pregnant as you can't have it during pregnancy. However, if you do get mumps while pregnant there is no evidence that it harms your unborn baby. The risk of miscarriage if you develop mumps in the first trimester increases slightly.