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The purpose of this article is to provide a general description of mumps.  This includes a look at the signs and symptoms of the disease, the means of treating mumps as well as a look at the way in which mumps is currently dealt with in the United States.  This also includes an overview of the vaccine that is used to prevent infections of mumps.  As always, should you or a family member need medical advice with regard to mumps it is important that you consult a licensed and trained health care professional such as your family physician.  However, what this article can provide is a relevant starting point for those looking for more information about mumps and would like a cursory overview of the subject for informational or educative purposes.

Mumps is caused by the mumps virus that infects what are called the parotid glands, which are salivary glands located just below and towards the front of the years.  In fact, the name ‘mumps’ is derived from an older word for lumps as there are lumps that result from the swollen glands that characterize the disease.  As a result of the virus infecting this area, it is not uncommon to notice in children who have been infected with mumps a swelling of these glands.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the odds of being infected with mumps is relatively low as after the introduction of the vaccine against it, in 1967, there have been very few cases of mumps reported as many people have received an immunization against it.  However, outbreaks still do happen from time to time in the United States of America and this disease is still prevalent in other areas of the world, causing a risk for travellers who have not received the vaccine.

What are the signs of mumps?

One of the aspects of mumps that can make it quite difficult to diagnose is that approximately one in five individuals who do become infected never in fact develop any signs or symptoms whatsoever that would otherwise indicated the presence of an infection due to the virus that causes mumps.  However, the majority of people do develop some type of symptoms which occur in the majority of cases between two and three weeks subsequent to being infected by the virus in question.  The symptoms of mumps include the salivary glands either on one side or potentially on both sides of the face becoming swollen and feeling somewhat painful.  This can result in an added discomfiture when eating as a result of the swollen glands being affected by chewing and swallowing.  In addition those infected may also experience fever, and a general lethargy or tiredness and feelings of weakness.

How does one get mumps?

As mentioned earlier, mumps is caused by a virus, known commonly enough as the mumps virus, which like other diseases such as infectious mononucleosis, spreads through the saliva of infected individuals.  As such, it can be spread by the sharing of utensils such as knives, forks or spoons, the sharing of water bottles, mugs, cups, glasses, etc, and through other activities in which saliva might be exchanged such as kissing.  In addition, an infected individual can also spread the disease by sneezing or coughing, which can atomise saliva and aid in the spread of the disease.  It is rare that one might in fact become infected with mumps at all as a result of the vaccine against it, but if you feel as though yourself or a family member may have been infected with mumps, it is important that a physician is contacted as soon as possible.


Given that mumps is a virus it cannot be directly treated with any medications.  The best that can be done is to find ways of treating the symptoms in order to make the progress of the disease more bearable.  As always, follow the instructions of your doctor should you have contracted mumps.  However, generally, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, known as Tylenol and Advil, can be used as a means of treating the symptoms.  Generally, the best remedy for this disease is to drink plenty of fluids in order to prevent becoming dehydrated and to get as much bed rest as possible until the fever associated with mumps abates.  In addition, when eating, plan on avoiding foods that either requires a lot of chewing or foods that stimulate saliva production such as things that are sour or some juices.  A cold compress may be applied to the head in order to alleviate pain caused by swollen glands.  In addition, the Mayo Clinic also recommends the wearing of an athletic supporter for men as it may help to alleviate some of the pain of tender testicles, a side effect of the disease.

Mumps Vaccine

Those who have either had mumps in the past or have been immunized against mumps in general are not at risk for the development of mumps.  The mumps vaccine is given as part of a combined vaccine known as the measles-mumps-rubella or MMR, inoculation.  The first vaccine dosage is given in the second year of life and the second dosage is given between the ages of four and six years of age.  It is recommended that you do not need the MMR vaccine if you have previously been immunized, have blood tests proving immunity and were a man or a woman no longer considering children, in either case born before 1957.  Pregnant women and those with a serious allergy to either gelatine or the antibiotic neomycin are not recommended candidates for vaccination.  However, women considering pregnancy, though not in the near future and individuals who plan on travelling outside the country or work in a medical or educational institution are considered as potential candidates for vaccination if they are not already immunized against mumps.

The vaccine does have some side effects which include some aching in the joints, occasionally the development of a fever and potentially a mild rash within the second week after having been vaccinated.  The vaccine is generally considered safe and serious allergic or otherwise reactions are considered to be extremely rare.