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(Epidemic Parotitis)

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Mumps is a viral infection. The infection causes fever and swelling of the parotid glands. Because of the mumps vaccine, this condition is not as common as it once was in the US.

Swollen Parotid Gland

Swollen Parotid Gland

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The virus that causes mumps is in the paramyxovirus family. This virus is usually spread through contact with an infected person's saliva. The mumps virus is highly contagious. It spreads easily among people in close contact.

Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing mumps:

  • Being exposed to unvaccinated people or to people who have mumps
  • Being born after 1956 and never having mumps, or not being vaccinated after first birthday
  • Age: 10-19
  • Season: winter
  • Having a weakened immune system, even if you have been vaccinated

Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.


About one-third of cases have no symptoms at all. Symptoms generally occur 2-3 weeks after exposure to the virus.

Mumps may cause:

  • Painful swelling of the parotid glands (under the cheeks and jaw)
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness

Other areas may also be affected, such as:

  • Swelling and pain under the tongue, jaw, or front of the chest
  • In males: painful inflammation of the testicles
  • In females: inflammation of the ovaries, which results in pain or tenderness in the abdomen


Diagnosis is based on symptoms, personal medical history, and physical exam. Testing is usually not needed.


There is no specific treatment for mumps. Mumps is caused by a virus, so it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Do not treat mumps with aspirin.

Note: Do not give aspirin to children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving a child aspirin.

In general, mumps will last about 10-12 days. Try these comfort measures:

  • Apply hot or cold compresses to swollen areas.
  • Gargle with warm salt water to soothe sore throat.
  • Treat high fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Avoid tart or acidic drinks (eg, orange juice, lemonade).
  • Eat a soft, bland diet.


In most healthy children, complications are rare. When complications do occur, they include:

  • Deafness (may not be permanent)
  • Swelling or infection of the brain, pancreas, heart, or other organs
  • Testicular inflammation (may occur in up to 20% of adolescent boys and men)
  • Problems with male fertility (sterility is rare)


Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent mumps. The vaccine contains live viruses that can no longer cause disease.

  • The vaccine is usually given as part of a combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination twice: at 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years (or at 11-12 years).

Ask your doctor if the vaccine is right for you. In general, avoid the vaccine if you:

  • Have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines or vaccine components
  • Are pregnant—Avoid pregnancy for 1-3 months after receiving the vaccine.
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have a high fever or severe upper respiratory tract infection

If you are not vaccinated, avoid contact with someone who has mumps.


American Academy of Family Physicians

American Academy of Pediatrics



Canadian Family Physician


Braunwald E. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 15th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2001.

Infertility in men. University of Maryland Medical Center website. Available at: Updated October 2006. Accessed July 28, 2008.

Mumps. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 2008. Accessed July 28, 2008.

Last reviewed February 2008 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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