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Mumps in Adults

What is mumps?

Mumps is an acute and highly contagious viral illness that usually occurs in childhood. Spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract, the disease usually takes two to three weeks to appear. Cases of mumps in the U.S. have declined dramatically with the introduction of the mumps vaccine.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps that may be seen in both adults and children. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Mild sickness

  • Discomfort in the salivary glands, which may become swollen and tender

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

The symptoms of mumps may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What complications are commonly associated with mumps?

Complications of mumps occur more frequently among adults than children, and may include:

  • Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain.

  • Orchitis. Inflammation of the testicle.

  • Mastitis. Inflammation of breast tissue.

  • Oophoritis. Inflammation of the ovary.

  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.

  • Deafness

How is mumps diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, your physician may also take a saliva and/or urinary culture to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Specific treatment for mumps will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment is usually limited to painkillers and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bedrest is necessary the first few days. According to the CDC, adults should stay home from work for five days after glands begin to swell. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have subsided. Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should minimize contact with other people who live in their homes. Good basic hygiene practices, such as thorough hand-washing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, and regularly cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, are also important in disease control.

How can mumps be prevented?

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccination against mumps, measles, and rubella. MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is administered when a child is 12 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was administered, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.

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