About mumps

Mumps is caused by the mumps virus. It spreads through direct contact with saliva or ‘droplets’ from sneezing and coughing.

Mumps is rare in Australia because most children are immunised against it.

Mumps symptoms

The mumps virus usually infects children 14-15 days before any symptoms appear.

Early mumps symptoms are fever, headache and tiredness.

These symptoms are followed by swelling of one of the salivary glands. The swelling starts in front of the ear and spreads under the jaw. Sometimes swelling happens in both salivary glands, so both sides of the face get swollen. 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. This usually doesn’t cause problems with future fertility.

In very rare cases, mumps can lead to meningitis, encephalitis and problems with hearing. Mumps can also cause myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle.

Children with mumps are infectious for a week after symptoms show.

Does your child need to see a doctor about mumps?

Yes. You should take your child to the GP if:

  • you think your child has mumps
  • your son has mumps and develops swollen, tender testicles
  • your child has mumps and complains of a severe headache, becomes drowsy, starts vomiting or can’t stand bright light.

Tests for mumps

Your GP might take a blood sample or swab from your child’s nose to confirm that your child has mumps.

Mumps treatment

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 in recommended doses to help lower his fever and reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and get lots of rest.
  • Give your child soft foods to eat so she doesn’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.

And remember to wash your hands carefully if you’re caring for a child with mumps.

Children who have mumps shouldn’t attend child care, preschool or school until at least nine days after their swelling started.

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 two free mumps immunisations. Your child needs both doses for the immunisation to work. He’ll get these immunisations at:

  • 12 months, as part of the MMR vaccine, which protects your child from measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
  • 18 months, as part of the MMRV vaccine, which protects your child from measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox).

Some parents are worried that the MMR vaccine is associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There’s no scientific evidence that vaccines are linked to the development of ASD. If you have any concerns about the MMR vaccine, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your GP.