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Mumps is an infectious illness caused by a virus. It is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, meaning other people can catch it when an infected person coughs or sneezes around them. The illness causes fever and swelling of salivary glands in the face. Complications include deafness, or inflammation in the brain, heart, liver and pancreas, among other possible issues. A further possible complication is swelling of the testicles, which may rarely be responsible for future fertility issues in men. Although mumps mainly occur in school-aged children, it is not a common health risk as it is vaccine-preventable.


Symptoms begin 14-25 days after infection. Initial symptoms include fever and feeling generally unwell. A few days later the parotid gland (a salivary gland located on the side of the face, just in front of and below the ear) swells. The swelling may be on one or both sides of the face. When the salivary glands swell they cause painful swallowing. Other symptoms include:

  1. Tiredness
  2. Weight loss
  3.  Headache

According to the Better Health Channel, a third of people do not experience symptoms. However, these people are still infectious and can pass the illness on to others.


If you are concerned your child has mumps, see your doctor for diagnosis and further advice. Although there is no specific treatment if your child develops mumps, there are ways to make your child more comfortable. Rest and fluids are important. Feed your child easy to swallow foods (such as custard). Paracetamol can be used for pain. A cold compress applied to the face can soothe the swollen gland. Keep your child away from others while sick. According to NSW Government Department of Health, your child should be isolated for nine days after swelling of the glands occurs. Because of potentially serious complications, see your doctor if your child complains of pain anywhere apart from the face. If no complications develop, your child should recover within two weeks. Immunisation helps prevent infection. According to The Australian Government Department of Health Immunise Australia Program, children should receive two vaccines against mumps: at 12 months and 18 months of age.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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