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Children's Health

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Mumps - Topic Overview

What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that can cause painful swelling of the salivary glands, especially the parotid glands camera.gif (between the ear and the jaw). Some people with mumps won't have gland swelling. They may feel like they have a bad cold or the flu instead.

Mumps usually goes away on its own in about 10 days. But in some cases, it can cause complications that affect the brain (meningitis), the testicles (orchitis), the ovaries (oophoritis), or the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free children’s preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests. Learn more.

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The mumps vaccine protects against the illness. This vaccine is part of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella [chickenpox]) vaccines. Most children get the vaccine as part of their regular shots. Before the mumps vaccine existed, mumps was a common childhood disease in the United States and Canada.

What causes mumps?

Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes near you or shares food or drinks.

You can spread the virus 7 days before and for 9 days after symptoms start. You are most likely to spread the virus 1 to 2 days before and 5 days after symptoms start.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling and pain in the jaw. One or both cheeks may look swollen.
  • Fever.
  • Headache, earache, sore throat, and pain when you swallow or open your mouth.
  • Pain when you eat sour foods or drink sour liquids, such as citrus fruit or juice.
  • Tiredness, with aching in the muscles and joints.
  • Poor appetite and vomiting.

It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to get symptoms after you have been exposed to the virus. This is called the incubation period. Some people who are infected with the mumps virus don't have any symptoms.

If you have more serious symptoms, such as a stiff neck or a severe headache, painful testicles, or severe belly pain, call your doctor right away.

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