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Mumps in Adults


What is mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection that 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 or ibuprofen may help decrease pain and fever. These medicines are available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage if not taken correctly.
  • 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 can I do to prevent mumps?

  • Ask your healthcare provider about the MMR vaccine. This vaccine helps protect you and others around you from measles, mumps, and rubella. If you were born before 1957, you were probably exposed to the mumps virus. This makes you naturally immune, so you do not need the vaccine. Healthcare workers born before 1957 may still need to get 2 doses of the vaccine during a mumps outbreak. Pregnant women cannot get the MMR vaccine.
  • Prevent the spread of germs. You are contagious (able to spread the virus) for 6 days after you start to have symptoms. Stay away from others, especially anyone who is pregnant, or who has not had the MMR vaccine. Stay home from school or work until your healthcare provider says you can return. Clean surfaces with a disinfecting cleaner. Cough and sneeze into the bend of your elbow. Wash your hands often, and after you use the bathroom or change a child's diaper. Use soap and water. Use a gel-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

What are the risks of mumps?

You may lose some or all of your hearing. The infection may spread to your testicles (in men). One or both testicles may be red, swollen, and painful. In women, a mumps infection during the first trimester increases the risk for miscarriage. Mumps may cause swelling of your pancreas. This can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The infection can spread to your brain or spinal cord. This can cause brain damage and may be life-threatening.

Call 911 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 contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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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