Mumps: Know all about its causes, symptoms and prevention

Mumps is a contagious infection. An expert shares all about what causes mumps, its symptoms and ways to prevent it.
Mumps can cause swelling of cheeks and jaw. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Purvi Kalra Published: 8 Feb 2024, 12:00 pm IST
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Mumps is a viral illness that affects parotid salivary glands. While it starts with mild symptoms such as headache, fatigue and fever, it may eventually lead to swelling in the cheeks and jaw. Mumps typically affect children, but adults are also susceptible to the infection. The Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccination can help to prevent the spread of mumps.

What are mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection caused by paramyxovirus, a member of the Rubulavirus family. It is common in children aged 5-9 years, and is easily spread by airborne or surface droplets,  physician Dr Kiran R Dhake tells HealthShots.

Know how to identify symptoms of mumps. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Causes of mumps

Mumps is caused by the mumps virus which belongs to a group of viruses, known as paramyxoviruses. This virus is a common source of infection in children. “Mumps virus moves from the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, and throat) into saliva-producing glands located on either side of the face (parotid glands). The virus replicated at this site, leading to swelling of the gland.

This virus is also known to enter the fluid that is present in tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and brain (CSF fluid). Once the virus has gained entry into CSF, the virus can reach other parts of the body—the pancreas, brain, and testicles in boys and men and ovaries in girls and women.

How does mumps spread?

Mumps is an airborne virus and can be spread by direct contact with infected droplets from the infected individual’s nose, mouth, and throat. The infected individual can spread mumps by:

1. Sneezing, coughing, or talking—releasing tiny droplets in the air which another person can breathe in.
2. Sharing or using objects containing saliva. This may include utensils, cups and toys, among other things.
3. Surface contact. An infected person can transferring the virus onto the desk, door handles, work surfaces and keypads. If someone else touches the object shortly afterwards, there is a high probability that the virus will be transferred.
4. Establishing close contact with an infected person—playing, holding hands, kissing, dancing, etc.

The high-risk group who are prone to develop mumps includes:

1. Individuals with weak/compromised immune systems.
2. Non vaccinated individual
3. People living in enclosed spaces—camps, quarters.

Also read: Celiac disease: How to detect the digestive disorder in young children?

Symptoms of Mumps

Mumps symptoms develop usually 12 to 24 days after a person becomes infected with the virus. This duration is known as the incubation period.

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Fever is a common symptom of mumps. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The most common symptom of mumps is cheek swelling. This happens due to swollen saliva-producing glands, the parotid glands, which are located on either side of the face, just below the ear. Swelling leads to pain, tenderness, and difficulty in swallowing.

Generalised symptoms of mumps before cheek gland swells:

1. Fever
2. Headache
3. Fatigue.
4. Muscle ache/joint ache.
5. Dry mouth.
6. Feeling sick
7. Loss of appetite.

In rare circumstances, the mumps virus can affect the brain, pancreas, testicles, and ovaries. This occurs in adolescents and adults. It is recommended to seek timely medical advice if the following symptoms are exhibited.

1. High grade fever
2. Neck stiffness
3. Intense headache
4. Confusion
5. Stomach ache
6. Vomiting
7. Seizure attacks

Mumps treatment

The treatment protocol is focused on symptomatic relief. A majority of infected people settle within a couple of weeks. The following measures can be helpful.

1. Bed rest
2. Over-the-counter painkillers
3. Plenty of fluid intake
4. Application of warm or cool pads to suppress swollen glands
5. Eat easy to chew food
6. Avoid spicy, oily, food
7. Salt water gargling

If symptoms do not subside within a week despite the above measures, please connect with your doctor immediately.

How to prevent mumps

The expert reckons some of the preventive measures that can be taken to prevent mumps.

1. Wear a mask or cover your mouth appropriately while coughing or sneezing
2. Practice hand hygiene regularly
3. Isolation – Stay away from work/school/college- until 5 days after the first symptom is developed
4. MMR Vaccination

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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