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Mumps is a contagious and viral infection of the salivary glands. It affects the parotid glands that are present below and in front of your ears. However, mumps can also affect other parts of the body, such as the pancreas, meninges, ovaries, and testicles.

If a person contracts mumps once, he/she usually becomes immune to future infections. Mumps usually occurs in children who have not been immunised for the same. While it has been a common viral infection in previous times, with the introduction of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, these infections have been reduced by 90%.

In this section, we will be discussing mumps’ causes, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive methods. Let us begin by understanding the symptoms of the infection.

Symptoms of Mumps

The tell-tale sign of mumps is the swollen jaw and puffy cheeks because of swelling in the parotid glands. However, it is important to note that mumps symptoms are apparent after two weeks from the day you contract the infection.

Some common flu-like symptoms that can first start to appear are as follows:

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weakness

  • Muscle aches

These are a few, typical symptoms that denote the start of the infection and are often confused with summer flu. However, in the case of mumps, a fever of 103°F (39°C) is followed by the swelling of the salivary glands over the next few days.

The swollen glands can become painful over time. There are also other associated symptoms such as pain in the side of the mouth/throat, pain while swallowing food, dry mouth, and joint pains. Most people who contract the virus show all of mumps’ symptoms. However, it is possible that some people who contract the virus may have very few or no symptoms.

What are the Causes of Mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus called Paramyxovirus. An infected individual is contagious for 15 days approximately. This includes six days before the symptoms show up and nine days after it.

The mumps virus is contagious and can spread from one person to another through respiratory or nasal secretions such as saliva and mucus. Infected people can spread the virus in the below-mentioned ways:

  • Sharing utensils and cups used by the infected person

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Talking

  • Not washing their hands properly

  • Close contact such as kissing or playing some sport

It is advisable to isolate and stay away from people as much as possible once you know that you or your child are infected with the virus. Further, mumps can lead to certain health complications as discussed below.

Understanding the Health Complications Arising Due to Mumps

Complications due to mumps are frequent in adults as compared to children. Some common health complications arising due to mumps are as follows:

  • Orchitis

It's a complication in men wherein the testicles swell and become really painful. It happens to one in five adult men suffering from mumps. Usually, the swelling goes down in a week. However, the tenderness can last for a while. In rare cases, orchitis can lead to infertility in men.

  • Oophoritis

It’s a compilation in women that leads to swelling in the ovaries. It occurs in one in 20 adult females. The swelling usually subsides as the immune system fights the virus. Similar to orchitis, rare cases of oophoritis lead to infertility in women.

  • Viral Meningitis

It is the rarest health complication arising due to mumps. It usually happens when the virus spreads into the bloodstream and infects the central nervous system.

  • Inflamed Pancreas (Pancreatitis)

People suffering from mumps can sometimes experience pain in the upper abdomen. It happens to one in 20 people and is a mild condition.

  • Encephalitis

It is a rare health complication that causes the brain to swell. It further leads to neurological issues that can be fatal. The chances of someone suffering from encephalitis due to mumps is one in 6,000.

  • Hearing Loss

Another rare health complication arising due to mumps is the hearing loss, the chances of someone suffering hearing loss is one in 15,000.

When pregnant women suffer from mumps in the first 12-16 weeks of their pregnancy, it increases the chances of miscarriage. Before mumps pose any risk to your health, it is best to consult your doctor and start treatment as soon as possible.

Diagnosis of Mumps

Mumps is easily diagnosed by the symptoms, especially when the doctors examine your facial swelling. However, before prescribing any treatment, your doctor might also:

  • Perform a medical examination and seek your medical history to check for underlying health issues

  • Check your body temperature

  • Take blood, urine and saliva samples to confirm the diagnosis of mumps

  • Take samples of cerebrospinal fluids (CSF) from the spine (in severe cases)

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor will recommend a complete treatment.

What is the Treatment for Mumps?

When it comes to mumps treatment, you can treat the symptoms to feel some relief. As it is a virus, it does not respond to antibiotics. Hence, you have to let it run its course until your immunity builds up. The doctor may prescribe some over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers to help relieve the pain caused due to the swelling. Infected people are not contagious a week after the diagnosis and can return to their normal day-to-day activities. However, consult your doctor before returning to your routine to avoid the spread of the infection.

Additionally, there are quite a few more things that you can do at home to relieve the mumps’ symptoms. These home remedies for mumps include:

  • Staying Hydrated

It is important to consume fluids and stay hydrated. Moreover, with the swelling in your jaw, it is not possible to eat solid foods. Hence, soft food and fluids can be of help. However, make sure to avoid fruit juices as they produce saliva, which, in turn, can be painful for you.

  • Warm/Cold Compresses for the Pain

Place an ice pack on the swollen area to help relieve the pain. Alternatively, you can also press a hot towel on the swollen area. Choose whichever method works for you.

  • Get Ample Rest

Resting it out and not exerting much is the primary thing you need to do when you get mumps. Sleep and rest as much as possible.

How to Prevent Mumps?

Mumps vaccine is the most effective way to prevent yourself from the infection. Most infants receive a vaccination for mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR). A second dose of the MMR vaccine is given to children between 4 and 6 years of age. After two doses, the mumps vaccine is said to be 88% effective.

Adults who work in high-risk environments, such as hospitals or schools, should also get the mumps vaccine. However, people with weak immunity and pregnant women should not consider taking the MMR vaccine. Consult your doctor before taking the vaccination.

Wrapping it up!

Mumps in adults is highly uncommon, but your kids are likely to get them at some point in time. If you are worried about them getting mumps, it is advisable to get them vaccinated for the same. Moreover, just to get an idea, you can reach out to your child’s health insurance provider and enquire whether mumps treatment is included in the insurance coverage.

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