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Preventing and treating mumps

Mumps, or epidemic parotitis, is a disease that's caused by a virus and spread through saliva. It can affect many parts of the body, but most notably enlarges the salivary glands, located behind the back of each cheek, between the ear and jaw. The disease used to be a common childhood occurrence; however, with the rise of vaccination, mumps is now rare. If your child does contract mumps, it is easy to diagnose and treat, and is very unlikely to cause any lasting damage.

Diagnosing Mumps

Mumps is a relatively easy disease to spot; some of the signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever of up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius)
  • Headache, sometimes severe
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the jaw and glands at the side of the throat

As the child's glands swell, he or she may complain of increasing pain. The glands can swell significantly, giving your child the look of a hamster with food in its cheeks. The pain can get worse with eating and drinking; this is why treatment for mumps should start right away.

While parotitis, is generally contained to the salivary (parotid) glands, sometimes it can spread to other glands in the body, causing mumps symptoms like swelling under the tongue, below the jaw and in the chest.

Complications can also occur with mumps, which is why getting your child the mumps vaccine is so important. Mumps complications can include swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and meningitis, a serious illness that can cause extreme sickness or even death. Other secondary infections include swelling of the testicles in adolescent males, which can cause sterility and pancreatitis.

Treatment and Prevention

If your child shows symptoms of mumps, your doctor will suggest confining him or her to your home until the virus passes, normally within ten to twelve days. The doctor may also suggest the use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as Tylenol or Advil, to ease the pain of the swelling and headache. Your doctor will not prescribe antibiotics for an outbreak of mumps. This is because mumps is viral and cannot be treated using antibiotics.

Call your doctor if your child begins to experience seizures, severe pain, a stiff neck, nausea or, in the case of boys, swelling in the testicles.

Most cases of mumps are prevented by use of the MMR vaccine, or measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. MMR is given to children between the ages of twelve and fifteen months, and again at the age of fourteen to sixteen. There has been some speculation that MMR may cause autism, but this link has been proven false.

While mumps can be an annoying and frightening disease, it is rarely serious. Protect your child by vaccinating, and it's likely your family will never experience mumps at all.

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