Mumps Vaccine
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Mumps Vaccine

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What Is Mumps?

Mumps is a highly contagious infection resulting in fever and swelling of the parotid glands (salivary glands located near the front of the ear). Mumps is caused by a virus.

The mumps virus is usually spread through contact with an infected person's saliva. Since the mumps virus is highly contagious, it spreads easily among people in close contact.

Once a common childhood illness, mumps is now rarely seen in the United States. This is largely because of the use of the mumps vaccine, which provides lifelong immunity.

Symptoms include:

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

About one-third of mumps cases have no symptoms at all. For those who do have symptoms, symptoms generally occur 2-3 weeks following exposure to the virus.

There are no medications or specific treatment for mumps. Since the illness is caused by a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Mumps should NOT be treated with aspirin. Therefore, treatment is aimed at improving comfort, which may include:

  • Applying hot or cold compresses to swollen areas
  • Gargling with warm saltwater
  • Using non-aspirin pain relievers
  • Using fever-reducing medications (eg, acetaminophen, ibuprofen)
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Avoiding tart or acidic drinks (eg, orange juice, lemonade)
  • Eating a soft, bland diet

What Is the Mumps Vaccine?

The mumps vaccine is given as the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles , mumps, and rubella. The MMR vaccine is made from weakened live viruses. It is given by injection and should be stored in a refrigerator prior to administration.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

All children (with few exceptions) should receive the mumps vaccine two times: at 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years (school entry). The second dose can be given earlier, but the two doses must be separated by at least four weeks.

For those 18 years of age or younger who have not been vaccinated, two doses of MMR are given, separated by four weeks (minimum age at first dose is 12 months).

Adults, aged 19-49, who have not been previously vaccinated receive one dose. Those who work in healthcare or a school/university settings, and those at high risk of exposure to mumps should get two doses. For adults 50 years and older who have not been vaccinated, one dose is given to those considered at high risk.*

What Are the Risks Associated With the Mumps Vaccine?

Like any vaccine, the MMR vaccine could cause serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction. While most people do not have any problems with the MMR vaccine, some have reported mild problems, such as fever, a mild rash, or swelling of the glands in the cheeks or neck. Moderate problems, including seizure caused by fever, temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, and low platelet count, have been reported. Very rarely, serious allergic reactions can occur.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or a previous dose of MMR vaccine should not receive the vaccine. Also, people who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover before getting the vaccination. Pregnant women should not receive the MMR vaccine until after they have given birth, and women should avoid getting pregnant for four weeks after getting the vaccine.

People who have a condition that affects the immune system (eg, HIV/AIDS ), who are being treated with drugs that affect the immune system (eg, long-term steroids), who have cancer or are being treated for cancer, who have ever had a low blood platelet count, or who have had a blood transfusion should consult their doctor before getting the MMR vaccine.

What Other Ways Can Mumps Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

Other than getting vaccinated, the best way to prevent mumps is to avoid contact with an infected person until all of his or her symptoms have subsided.

What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

During a mumps outbreak, health officials will encourage unvaccinated people to receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. Since it may take 2-4 weeks after vaccination to achieve full immunity to mumps, newly vaccinated people are susceptible to developing mumps for as long as a month after vaccination. For this reason, people with the illness should be isolated for nine days after the onset of symptoms and unvaccinated and newly vaccinated people should avoid contact with anyone who may have the illness.


Immunization Initiatives
American Academy of Pediatrics

National Immunization Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Mumps. New York State Department of Health website. Available at: Accessed February 6, 2007.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed February 6, 2007.

*Updated Who Should Get Vaccinated and When section on 1/31/2008 according to the following study, as cited by DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.

Last reviewed February 2008 by David 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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