Mumps is a childhood illness that is caused by a virus and spread by droplet infection. The incubation period is around 17 days (14-25). Individuals are infectious from several days before they get they typical parotid swelling to several days after it appears.
Onset of the illness is with fever, malaise (feeling unwell) and parotitis (swelling of the parotid glands, just under your jaw, it makes you look a bit like a hamster.) The swelling may be one only one side, but generally it is on both. It makes eating and drinking painful and children may also complain of earache.
- No symptoms at all
- Head ache
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen parotid glands (making you look like a hamster)
- Testicular pain in older children (“orchitis” or “orchiditis”)
Mumps normally lasts 10-12 days.
Is Mumps Contagious?
The mumps virus is contagious. Is spreads in tiny drops from your mouth and nose. So every time you sneeze, cough or laugh you can spread the virus.
It’s important to wash your hands if you are looking after a child with mumps. The tiny drops can easily get onto your hands from a tissue, or just from touching then. Think of all that snot and saliva that kids produce!
Of course the virus will also be on anything that comes into contact with their nose or mouth, such as cups, forks and spoons.
People with mumps are infections from 2 days before the symptoms to 6 days after the symptoms.
There is no treatment to stop mumps. Treatment is “supportive” which means looking after the symptoms. If you are worried that your child has mumps, you should take them to the doctor who can confirm the diagnosis and will notify the health authorities to keep track of outbreaks.
Prevention of Mumps
The MMR vaccine prevents people from getting mumps. Mumps is quite rare now but since 1999 the incidence of mumps has increased due to the decline in people having the MMR vaccine.
Complications of Mumps
Mumps is generally a mild illness, although complications such as meningitis and hearing loss can occur. People worry that mumps can lead to infertility but that is extremely unusual. It can lead to orchiditis, (infection in the testes) but normally it only affects one side so it doesn’t lead to infertility.