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Mumps in Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What is mumps?

Mumps is a disease causes by a virus. Mumps causes inflammation of the parotid glands. Parotid glands help to make saliva. They are located in front of and below each ear. The mumps virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is also spread through direct contact with an infected person's saliva, such as sharing eating utensils.

What are the signs and symptoms of mumps?

  • Weakness, tiredness, or muscle pain
  • Fever, a headache, or pain in your ear or jaw
  • Swollen, painful glands on one or both sides of your face
  • Loss of appetite, or pain when you chew or swallow
  • Pain or tenderness in your testicles (men)

How is mumps diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may be able to diagnose mumps based on your symptoms and a physical exam. You may need a blood test to confirm the infection.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

Mumps cannot be cured, but the following may help decrease your symptoms:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Liquids help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day. Drink water, juice, or broth instead of sports drinks. You may also need an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar you need to replace body fluids. Ask your healthcare provider where you can get an ORS.
  • Eat soft foods. These include cooked cereal, rice, mashed potatoes, applesauce, or soup. Do not eat foods that are sour or hard to chew. This can cause an increase in saliva and make your pain worse.
  • Get more rest. Rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.
  • Apply ice. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your swollen glands for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.

What do I need to know about the mumps vaccine?

The MMR vaccine helps protect you and others around you from measles, mumps, and rubella. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need the vaccine. He or she will tell you when to get the vaccine, and how many doses you need.

What can I do to prevent the spread of germs?

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Stay away from others while you are sick. Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. Talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccine history. He or she will tell you which vaccines you need, and when to get them.
    • Get the influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as recommended each year. The flu vaccine is available starting in September or October. Flu viruses change, so it is important to get a flu vaccine every year.
    • Get the pneumonia vaccine if recommended. This vaccine is usually recommended every 5 years. Your provider will tell you when to get this vaccine, if needed.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have trouble breathing or are breathing faster than usual.
  • You suddenly cannot hear.
  • You have abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • You are confused or less alert than usual.
  • You have a severe headache that is not relieved by pain medicine.
  • You have a stiff neck.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your swollen glands are red for more than 8 days.
  • You have trouble eating and drinking.
  • Your testicles are red, swollen, or painful (men).
  • You are pregnant and think you were exposed to the mumps virus (women).
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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