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Mumps is a contagious disease that causes painful swelling of the parotid glands, the largest of the three major pairs salivary glands, located in the cheeks. It is caused by a virus and usually strikes children and teens. It usually goes away completely after running its course and complications are rare. However, some complications can be serious.
Before a mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967, it was a very common childhood illness. Now that most children are vaccinated, it is relatively rare for kids to get mumps. However, there have been a few outbreaks in recent years that affected several thousand children.
Signs and Symptoms
The following signs and symptoms often accompany mumps:
Symptoms usually start 14 - 24 days after infection with the virus.
What Causes It?
Mumps is caused by a virus and spread through infected saliva. You can get mumps from breathing in droplets of the virus when an infected person has coughed or sneezed, or by sharing utensils.
Who's Most At Risk?
People who have not been vaccinated, particularly children and teens, are at risk for developing mumps. Mumps occur most often in children between the ages of 5 - 9.
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you have symptoms of mumps, you should see your health care provider. Your health care provider will check for swelling in your face, especially below the ear and above the jaw. Your doctor may also do a blood test or a viral culture to see if the mumps virus is present. Routine hearing tests on young children can find any temporary or, rarely, permanent loss.
Vaccination is the key to preventing mumps. The live mumps virus is about 95% effective in preventing the disease. The vaccine is available by itself or in the combination vaccine of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). Protection usually lasts at least 20 years with very few side effects. It is generally given at 15 months of age, but teens and adults can get it as well. Pregnant women should not be vaccinated, and people with fever or allergies to eggs should first talk with their health care provider.
If you have mumps, you should stay out of school or work for 7 - 10 days after symptoms start. That's when you are most contagious. You should eat soft foods, avoid acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus or tomato products, and take pain relievers as needed. Do not give aspirin to children under 18 because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious illness. Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) instead as directed by your pediatrician.
A man with swollen testicles should rest in bed until symptoms get better. Relieve pain with ice packs, or by supporting the scrotum with cotton or gauze, or an athletic supporter.
A health care provider may do a hearing test on young children who develop mumps, to find any possible loss of hearing.
If the person develops pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) with nausea and vomiting, the doctor may give IV fluids.
No medications other than pain relievers are needed for most cases of mumps.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Mumps usually gets better on its own, although you should always see your health care provider if you have symptoms of mumps. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, and some CAM therapies may help.
Nutrition and Supplements
Adults and children may want to eat soft foods until they feel better and the swelling goes down. Make sure children get plenty of fluids.
These supplements may also help. Always ask your pediatrician before giving any herb or supplement to a child.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts).
Always ask your pediatrician before giving any herb or supplement to a child.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for mumps based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
Prognosis and Possible Complications
Most cases of mumps get better without any lasting problems. Complications are more likely in teens and adults. These may include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and its membranous coverings), deafness, orchitis, pancreatitis, and miscarriage in early pregnancy.
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Review Date: 6/18/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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