All about mumps

Mumps is caused by the mumps virus, but due to the prevalence of vaccination, not many kids get sick from the virus.

What causes mumps?

It is a viral infection of the parotid glands, a pair of salivary glands found just above the jaw line, below and in front of her ears. One or both of the glands can become infected and result in swelling. The virus is spread when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes. Kids can also get the virus from sharing drinking cups, eating utensils or toys with an infected person.

Is mumps serious?

Mumps is usually not serious for younger children. Teenagers and adults may experience more severe symptoms. Serious complications may include:

  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Inflammation of the testicles, ovaries or breasts
  • Hearing loss
  • Spontaneous abortion
  • In rare cases, males that get the virus may become sterile (unable to have children).

Can I prevent it?

Mumps is prevented with the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine given at twelve months and again at four years – they are not protected until they have both doses of the vaccine. If your child develops mumps, keep him home for at least nine days after the swelling begins to prevent infecting others.

How do I know if my child has mumps?

Swollen parotid glands are the telltale sign of mumps. Before the swelling begins, your child may have a pain in the jaw, fever , headache, tiredness, and/or lack of appetite. It may take up to 25 days after exposure to the virus for your child to begin to show symptoms. There are medical tests to confirm mumps, but most doctors can tell just by your child’s symptoms alone.

How do I treat it?

You can give your child paracetamol for discomfort and fever, and use warm or cold packs for swelling, but the virus generally resolves on its own.

Should I call the doctor?

Call the doctor if you suspect your child has mumps. Doctors, schools and child care centres are required to report any cases to prevent further spread.

What you need to know:

  • Mumps is uncommon because of vaccinations.
  • It is caused by a virus.
  • Mumps is more serious for older kids and adults.

You can prevent it by making sure that your kids get vaccinated.

Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Ministry of Health NZ, Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.

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