Mumps is caused by the mumps virus. It spreads through direct contact with saliva or through sneezing and coughing.
Mumps is rare in Australia because most children are immunised against it.
Symptoms usually start to appear 12-25 days after infection with mumps virus.
Many children infected with mumps have no symptoms at all. Children infected after puberty often get more severe symptoms.
Early mumps symptoms are fever, headache and tiredness.
These symptoms are followed by swelling of the salivary glands, usually on both sides of the face. The swelling starts in front of the ear and spreads under the jaw. Because of the swelling, it might be painful when your child chews or swallows.
Boys with mumps can sometimes get swelling and pain in their testicles.
Complications of mumps
In very rare cases, mumps can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, problems with hearing and fertility problems in men. Mumps can also cause myocarditis.
Children with mumps are contagious for a week before symptoms appear and 9 days after the salivary glands start swelling.
Medical help: when to get it for children with mumps
You should take your child to the GP if your child has:
- mumps symptoms
- mumps and develops swollen, tender testicles.
Take your child to your nearest hospital emergency department if your child has mumps and:
- complains of a severe headache
- becomes drowsy
- starts vomiting
- can’t stand bright light.
You know your child best. If your child seems unwell, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical attention.
Tests for mumps
Your doctor might take a blood sample or swab from your child’s nose to confirm that your child has mumps.
Most children recover fully from mumps with no problems.
There’s no specific treatment for mumps, but here are some ways to ease your child’s symptoms:
- Give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen in recommended doses to help with fever and reduce pain and discomfort.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.
- Give your child soft foods to eat so they don’t have to chew too hard.
- Avoid giving your child sour foods because these foods can stimulate saliva.
- Put an ice-pack on the sore and swollen parts of your child’s face.
Don’t give aspirin to children under 12 years unless it’s prescribed by a doctor. Aspirin can make your child susceptible to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially deadly illness. If you’re giving your child any over-the-counter medicines, check with your pharmacist or doctor to make sure these have no aspirin.
Prevention of mumps
The best way to avoid mumps is to have your child immunised. This gives your child 95% protection against mumps.
As part of the Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP), your child will get 2 free mumps immunisations. Your child needs both doses for the immunisation to work. Your child will get these immunisations at:
- 12 months, as part of the MMR vaccine, which protects your child from measles, mumps and rubella
- 18 months, as part of the MMRV vaccine, which protects your child from measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox).
Always wash your hands carefully if you’re caring for a child with mumps.
Children who have mumps shouldn’t go to child care, preschool or school until at least 9 days after their swelling started.