Mumps in Children

What is mumps in children?

Mumps is a very contagious viral illness that infects the pair of salivary glands in front of the ears. These are called the parotid glands. Symptoms of mumps include swelling in the throat and jaw. Mumps usually occurs in childhood, but can occur at any age. Cases of mumps in the U.S. happen much less often since the mumps vaccine has been used.

What causes mumps in a child?

Mumps is spread by contact with fluids from the mouth, nose, and throat when an infected child coughs, sneezes, or talks. The virus can also live on surfaces like doorknobs, eating utensils, and drinking cups. The virus is spread when another child uses these items and then rubs his or her nose or mouth.

Which children are at risk for mumps?

A child is more at risk for mumps if he or she is around someone with mumps and has not had the mumps vaccine.

What are the symptoms of mumps in a child?

Symptoms usually take 2 to 3 weeks to appear after contact with the virus. Many children have no symptoms, or very mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of mumps include:

  • Pain and swelling in the salivary glands, especially in the jaw area
  • Trouble talking and chewing
  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

The symptoms of mumps can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is mumps diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as a saliva or urine test to confirm the diagnosis.

How is mumps treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Antibiotics are not used to treat this illness.

The goal of treatment is to help ease symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Bed rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and discomfort

Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines. Don't give ibuprofen to a child younger than 6 months old, unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Don't give aspirin to children. Aspirin can cause a serious health condition called Reye syndrome.

What are possible complications of mumps in a child?

Complications of mumps occur more often in adults than in children. They can include:

  • Meningitis. This is inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Most children recover fully from this.
  • Encephalitis. This is inflammation of the brain. Most children also recover fully from this.
  • Orchitis. This is inflammation of the testicles. It causes pain of the testicles. In rare cases, it may lead to infertility problems.
  • Mastitis. This is inflammation of breast tissue.
  • Oophoritis. This is inflammation of the ovaries. It may cause belly pain and vomiting.
  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Deafness. Loss of hearing can occur.      

How can I help prevent mumps in my child?

Protection against mumps is included in a combination vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). MMR provides immunity for most people. Children who have had mumps are immune for life.

The MMR vaccine is given in 2 doses. The first dose is given between ages 12 months to 15 months old. A second dose is given between ages 4 and 6. The second dose needs to be given at least 4 weeks after the first dose.

To help prevent the spread of mumps to others:

  • Keep your child out of school or daycare until symptoms have gone away.
  • Wash your hands well before and after caring for your child.
  • Make sure other household members wash their hands often, especially before eating.
  • Have your child cover his or her mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  • Clean hard surfaces, toys, and doorknobs with a disinfectant.
  • Make sure your child-care center encourages handwashing.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse
  • New symptoms

Key points about mumps in children

  • Mumps is a very contagious viral illness that infects the pair of salivary glands in front of the ears.
  • Mumps is spread by contact with fluids from the mouth, nose, and throat when an infected child coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • Mumps can be prevented by vaccine. Protection against mumps is included in a combination vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). MMR provides immunity for most people.
  • The most common symptoms of mumps include pain and swelling in the salivary glands, especially in the jaw area. Other symptoms include trouble talking and chewing, earache, and fever.
  • The goal of treatment is to help ease symptoms. Treatment may include rest, fluids, and acetaminophen for discomfort.
  • Keep your child out of school or daycare until symptoms have gone away. Wash your hands well before and after caring for your child. Have your child cover his or her mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.