Mumps in Adults

What is mumps?

Mumps is an illness caused by a virus. It usually happens in childhood. Mumps are easily spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract. The disease usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to appear. Since the introduction of the mumps vaccine, cases of mumps in the U.S. are uncommon.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps that may be seen in both adults and children:

  • Discomfort in the salivary glands (in the front of the neck) or the parotid glands (immediately in front of the ears). Either of these glands may become swollen and tender.

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Pain and tenderness of the testicles

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

The symptoms of mumps may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What complications are commonly associated with mumps?

Complications of mumps happen more often among adults than children, and may include:

  • Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain.

  • Orchitis. Inflammation of one or both testicles.

  • Mastitis. Inflammation of breast tissue.

  • Parotitis. Inflammation of one or both parotid glands. 

  • Oophoritis. Inflammation of one or both ovaries.

  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.

  • Deafness

How is mumps diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical exam, your healthcare provider may also take a saliva and/or urinary culture to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Treatment is usually limited to medicines for pain and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bed rest is necessary the first few days. According to the CDC, adults should stay home from work for 5 days after glands begin to swell. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have lessened. Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should reduce contact with other people who live in their homes. Good basic hygiene practices, such as thorough hand-washing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, and regularly cleaning often-touched surfaces, are also important in disease control.

How can mumps be prevented?

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccine against mumps, measles, and rubella. The MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given when a child is 12 to 15 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was given, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.

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