Infectious diseases


Last update: 11-01-2024

How else can it be called?

  • Parotitis

  • Epidemic parotitis

  • Parotid gland swelling

  • ICD-10: B26

What are mumps?

Mumps is an infectious disease caused by a virus, leading to the swelling of the salivary glands (parotid glands).

This highly contagious and often epidemic illness is also known as parotitis, given its characteristic inflammation of the parotid glands situated in the lower region and on the sides of the lower jaw.

Presently, it is a rare disease, especially in developed nations, attributed to the widespread administration of the triple viral vaccine, guarding against three infections: mumps, rubella, and measles.

However, it still affects adults to some extent, and in these cases, it tends to become more complex, involving other organs such as the testicles, brain, and pancreas, resulting in numerous complications.

What is the main cause of mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus belonging to the paramyxovirus family, transmitted between individuals via respiratory droplets or contact with objects carrying saliva residue, such as glasses, cutlery, and other items.

The mumps virus exclusively targets humans and typically confers lifelong immunity, making repeat infections unlikely.

What are the most common symptoms of mumps?

The most common symptoms of mumps are:

  • Fever, vomiting and headaches that may precede typical symptoms by up to two days.
  • Pain in the parotid area below the jaw, which can be felt on one or both sides.
  • Swelling and firmness of the parotid region beneath the jaw.
  • Sore throat.
  • Earache.
  • Increased discomfort when consuming acidic or bitter foods
  • In certain cases, the infection may occur without noticeable symptoms.

When complications occur, individuals may experience orchitis, characterized by testicular pain and inflammation, more frequently observed in older children and adolescents, but rarely leading to sterility. The most severe complication involves brain infection or meningitis.

The mumps virus, less commonly, can impact various affect other organs such as: pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, heart, liver, kidney and joints.

How is the mumps diagnosed?

The incubation period between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms can range from 10 days to 20 days.

The definitive diagnostic method involves examining the swollen parotid glands alongside the associated symptoms, rendering further studies unnecessary.

Mumps often manifests in epidemics among unvaccinated children aged 2 to 12 years. However, it can also affect unvaccinated adults who have not encountered the disease previously, even if they received the vaccination in childhood.

Controlling this infection poses a challenge as individuals can start transmitting the virus to others before displaying any symptoms. Additionally, some infected individuals may never exhibit symptoms themselves but can still spread the infection to others.

Which is the recommended treatment?

Mumps is typically a self-limiting infection. Antipyretics like paracetamol are often administered in weight-appropriate doses, generally spaced out every 4 to 6 hours, primarily to manage fever.

Local application of cold compresses can provide some relief from symptoms. Gargling with warm salt water, opting for soft foods, and ensuring adequate fluid intake are commonly recommended practices.

To prevent potential infection in unvaccinated or susceptible individuals, the most effective strategy involves avoiding contact with an infected person, wearing masks, and washing hands properly.

The widespread administration of the MMR vaccine has proven highly effective in significantly reducing the occurrence of severe mumps-related complications on a global scale.

Medically reviewed by Yolanda Patricia Gómez González Ph.D. on 11-01-2024


  • Principles and Practice of Clinical Virology (5th Ed) 2004, Pauli Leinikki, ISBN: 0-470-84338-1, Pag. 459.
  • Diagnostic Pathology of Infectious Disease. 2nd edition. Richard L. Kradin. 2018. ISBN: 978-0-323-44585-6. Pág. 118.

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