Mumps in Adults

What is mumps?

Mumps is an illness caused by a virus. It usually happens in childhood. Mumps is easily spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract. After exposure, the disease usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to appear. Since the introduction of the mumps vaccine, cases of mumps in the U.S. are uncommon. But they still occur among people who have not been vaccinated.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no or very mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of mumps that may be seen in both adults and children are:

  • Discomfort in the salivary glands (in the front of the neck) or the parotid glands (right in front of the ears). Either of these glands may become swollen and tender.

  • Problems chewing

  • Pain and tenderness of the testicles

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What complications are commonly linked to mumps?

Complications of mumps happen more often among adults than children. They may include:

  • Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain. This can lead to major problems, such as seizures, stroke, or death.

  • Orchitis. Inflammation of one or both testicles. This can lower a man's ability to make sperm. In rare cases, it can cause sterility.

  • Mastitis. Inflammation of breast tissue.

  • Parotitis. Inflammation of one or both parotid glands. 

  • Oophoritis. Inflammation of one or both ovaries. In rare cases, this can make it hard for a woman to become pregnant.

  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.

  • Deafness.

How is mumps diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your past health and do a physical exam. You may also need tests done on saliva, blood, or urine to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Treatment is usually limited to medicines for pain and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bed rest is needed the first few days. Experts advise adults stay home from work for 5 days after glands begin to swell. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have lessened.

Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should reduce contact with other people who live in their homes. These good basic hygiene practices can help control the disease:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • Regularly clean often-touched surfaces.

How can mumps be prevented?

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccine against mumps, measles, and rubella. The MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given when a child is 12 to 15 months old. A second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. But if 28 days have passed since the first dose was given, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.