Mumps is a contagious disease that leads to painful swelling of the salivary glands. The salivary glands produce saliva, a liquid that moistens food and helps you chew and swallow.
Mumps is caused by a virus. The virus spreads from person to person by drops of moisture from the nose and mouth, such as through sneezing. It is also spread through direct contact with items that have infected saliva on them.
Mumps most often occurs in children ages 2 through 12 who have not been vaccinated against the disease. However, the infection can occur at any age and may also be seen in college age students.
The time between being exposed to the virus and getting sick (incubation period) is about 12 to 25 days.
Mumps may also infect the:
Symptoms of mumps may include:
- Face pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of the parotid glands (the largest salivary glands, located between the ear and the jaw)
- Swelling of the temples or jaw (temporomandibular area)
Other symptoms that can occur in males are:
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform an exam and ask about the symptoms, especially when they started.
No tests are needed in most cases. The provider can usually diagnose mumps by looking at the symptoms.
Blood tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no specific treatment for mumps. The following things can be done to relieve symptoms:
- Apply ice or heat packs to the neck area.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain. Do not give aspirin to children with a viral illness because of the risk for Reye syndrome.
- Drink extra fluid.
- Eat soft foods.
- Gargle with warm salt water.
People with this disease do well most of the time, even if organs other than the salivary glands are involved. After the illness is over in about 7 days, they'll be immune to mumps for the rest of their life.
Infection of other organs may occur, including testicle swelling (orchitis).
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your provider if you or your child has mumps along with:
- Red eyes
- Constant drowsiness
- Constant vomiting or abdominal pain
- Severe headache
- Pain or a lump in testicle
Call 911 or the local emergency number or visit the emergency room if seizures occur.
- First dose: 12 through 15 months old
- Second dose: 4 through 6 years old
Adults can also receive the vaccine. Talk to your provider about this.
Recent outbreaks of the mumps have supported the importance of having all children vaccinated.
Epidemic parotitis; Viral parotitis; Parotitis
Litman N, Baum SG. Mumps virus. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 157.
Mason WH, Gans HA. Mumps. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 275.
Patel M, Gnann JW. Mumps. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 345.
Review Date 6/7/2022
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.