Mumps is a viral disease. It can affect many parts of the body, especially the parotid glands. These glands are responsible for creating saliva in the mouth. They are found towards the back of each cheek, in the area between the ear and the jaw. In the case of mumps, these glands typically swell and become painful.

After a child has the mumps, it is unusual to have a second bout because most people have lifelong protection after their first infection.

Signs and Symptoms: Symptoms include headache and loss of appetite followed by high fever of up to 103-degree Fahrenheit. This leads to the well-known hallmark of mumps, i.e., swelling and pain in the parotid glands. The glands are swollen and painful for 1-3 days. The pain gets worse when the child swallows, talks, chews, or drinks acidic juices (like orange juice).

Complications: Mumps, in some cases, may lead to swelling in the brain and other organs, although this is not common. It is a rare complication of mumps. Symptoms appear in the first week after parotid glands begin to swell and may include high fever, stiff neck, headache, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, convulsions, and other signs of brain involvement. Mumps in adolescents may result in orchitis, an inflammation in testicles. Usually one testicle becomes swollen and painful about 7-10 days after the parotids swell. This is accompanied by a high fever, shaking chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Additionally, mumps may affect the pancreas or, in females, the ovaries, causing pain and tenderness in parts of the abdomen.

Contagiousness: The mumps virus is highly contagious. It is passed on to others through coughing, sneezing, or even laughing. The virus can also spread to other people through direct contact, such as picking up tissues or using drinking glasses that have been used by the infected person. People who have mumps are most contagious from 2 days before symptoms begin to 6 days after they end. The virus can also spread from people who are infected but have no symptoms.

Prevention: Mumps can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccine is given as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization, that is given to the children at 12-15 months of age and the second dose is given at 4-5 years of age.

Duration: Children usually recover from mumps in about 10-12 days. It takes about 1 week for the swelling to disappear in each parotid gland, but both glands don’t usually swell at the same time.

Treatment: If you think your child has mumps, you can call the doctor who can confirm the diagnosis. Mumps cannot be treated with antibiotics as it is a viral disease. At home, you can keep track of your child’s temperature. You can use non-aspirin fever medications like ibuprofen to bring down the temperature. Serve a diet that does not require lot of chewing and make your child to drink fluids in plenty. Refrain from serving tart or acidic fruit juices. A child with mumps doesn’t need to stay in bed, but may play quietly. Ask your doctor about the best time for your child to return to school.

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