Health Topics


Mumps is an infection caused by a virus. It causes swelling of the saliva (spit) glands most often. Mumps can cause the following complications: 

  • Meningitis - swelling of the brain and spinal cord with a headache and/or stiff neck
  • Orchitis - swelling of one or both testicles; leads to sterility in some rare cases
  • Oophoritis - swelling of the ovaries
  • Risk of miscarriage in pregnant women, if you are not immune and you get mumps early in pregnancy (first trimester); there is no evidence that mumps causes birth defects
  • Hearing loss in one or both ears - may be permanent
  • Pancreatitis - usually mild

Mumps is highly contagious. Mumps is spread from person to person by:

  • Droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks
  • Kissing
  • Sharing drinking and eating utensils  such as cups, straws, forks or spoons

The virus can also live on surfaces. Touching a surface contaminated by the mumps virus and then touching your nose or mouth can cause infection. 

A person can be infectious seven days before to five days after the salivary glands start to swell. 

Symptoms start 12 to 25 days after exposure to the mumps virus. About 20% of people with mumps do not have symptoms but can still spread the infection. 

Symptoms of mumps

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

After these symptoms, you get painful swelling and tenderness in one or both salivary glands located near your jaw line below your ears.

You need lab tests to diagnose mumps. Call your doctor or a walk-in clinic if you think you or your child has mumps. Do not show up at your doctor’s or walk-in clinic without calling first.

There is no treatment for mumps.  You should stay home if you have mumps.  Do not go to school, daycare or work for at least five days after you get swollen salivary glands.

Here are some tips to prevent spreading mumps to others:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand rub with 70 - 90% alcohol.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or sleeve. Throw the tissue out right after using it and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Try not to have close contact with other people living in your house.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Do not share eating or drinking utensils, or any object that touches your mouth or nose.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, toys, tables and light switches often, using soap and water or cleaning wipes.
  • Stay home if you have a fever or cold-like symptoms.

You can prevent mumps by getting two vaccines: 

Talk to your doctor about the vaccines.

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