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Dr Chris Steele

 

Mumps


What is mumps?
Mumps in children is usually a mild infectious disease, classically producing swellings at the side of the face. These swellings are due to enlargement and inflammation of the glands that produce saliva. The affected glands lie just below and just in front of the ears. They are called the parotid glands.

There is no rash with mumps.

After a long incubation period of 3 weeks these symptoms appear:

  • Child may feel unwell for a day or two
  • Swelling of the face develops - on one or both sides
  • The swollen glands are often painful
  • Swallowing may be uncomfortable
  • Dry mouth: The inflamed glands produce less saliva
  • Headache and fever.

Complications
Orchitis in boys. This is inflammation of the testes. It is a painful condition, often affecting only one testis which becomes swollen and tender. Even if both testes are affected, sterility (inability to have children on reaching adulthood) is exceptionally rare.

Other uncommon side effects of mumps are:

  • Deafness
  • Pancreatitis - causing upper abdominal pain
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Masitis (inflammation of the breasts)
  • Oophotitis (inflammation of the ovaries)

Who gets mumps?
Any person who has not had mumps before or who has not been vaccinated.

What causes mumps?
It is caused by a virus that enters the body through the mouth or nose. Droplets spread from an infected person is the normal mode of transmission. Patients are infectious until the swollen glands decrease in size.

Can mumps be prevented?
Although the complications of mumps are rare, they are so serious, e.g. meningitis and encephalitis, that avoidance of this disease is extremely necessary. A single injection of the MMR vaccine between 12 - 18 months gives protection against mumps.

As the Health Education Authority Adverts say 'Give your child something you never had - the MMR vaccine.'

How should you treat mumps?
At home:

  • Control fever (see fever control article)
  • Give soups and liquidised foods
  • A hot water bottle in a towel held against the swollen glands can ease the pain
  • Contact your G.P. to confirm diagnosis

There is no cure for mumps. Your doctor may advise paracetamol for any pain that is present, be it in the swollen glands, tummy or testes. Call your G.P. if there is any headache with neck stiffness, or if you are worried.