About This Disease

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The classic symptom of mumps is swelling of the salivary glands under the ears, resulting in a tender, swollen jaw.

In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. Complications include:

  • Meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Deafness (temporary or permanent)
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
  • Orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached puberty
  • Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females who have reached puberty

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides (parotitis). Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms. Others may feel sick but will not have swollen glands.

The symptoms usually start 16–18 days after infection with the virus, but the onset can range from 12 to 25 days.

Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks.


Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person. An infected person can spread the virus by:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or talking
  • Sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils with others
  • Touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others

People with mumps are most infectious in the several days before and after the onset of parotitis. According to Hawaii State Law, a person with mumps should not be allowed to attend school, work, or travel for 9 days after the start of swollen salivary glands.


Mumps is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms, physical signs, and laboratory tests. People with symptoms of mumps should contact a healthcare provider immediately.


There is no specific treatment for mumps. Care of patients with mumps consists mainly of ensuring adequate intake of fluids, bed rest, and fever control.


The best way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated at the recommended age.

All children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine which protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. The first dose is given at age 12–15 months and the second dose at 4–6 years of age.

All adults born in or after 1957 should also have documentation of vaccination, unless they have had a blood test showing they are immune to mumps. Certain adults at higher risk of exposure to mumps may need a second dose of MMR vaccine.