Mumps is a viral infection of childhood that affects the salivary glands, most commonly the parotid glands, located near the ear (hence its medical name, parotitis). The illness begins with a fever, headache, loss of appetite, malaise, and muscle aches. Pain in the ear and under the jaw begins about twenty-four hours later. Over the next one to three days, the salivary glands swell and become very tender. The swelling typically lessens over a course of three to seven days.
The illness is spread by contact with infected saliva. It is somewhat less contagious than either measles or chickenpox. Once a child is infected with the virus, it can incubate for two to three-and-a-half weeks before signs of infection appear. A child is contagious from about six days before the onset of illness to nine days after the glands have become swollen.
Mumps is most common in children from age five through fifteen. It is usually self-limiting and runs its course without complications. One possible long-term complication that does exist occurs in boys, when the virus attacks the testicles. This may result only in pain and swelling initially, but in some cases it can cause infertility the long run, especially if a boy contracts the disease as a teenager or young adult.
SYMPTOMS OF MUMPS
The first signs that a child is coming down with mumps usually include some combination of the following:
An all-over achy and chilled feeling.
Low to moderate fever.
Twelve to twenty-four hours after these initial symptoms, a child with mumps will have the characteristic signs of swollen salivary glands:
Pain upon swallowing, especially swallowing acidic foods.
Pain and swelling in the jaw and under the ear or ears. The affected areas will be quite sensitive when touched.
Possible loss of appetite.
Treatment of mumps is aimed at helping your child feel comfortable through the illness. Acetaminophen (in the form of Tylenol, Tempra, and other medications) or ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, and others) will bring down fever and ease the headache, muscle aches, and malaise that accompany the disease.
Note: In excessive doses, acetaminophen can cause liver damage. If you give your child acetaminophen, follow age-appropriate dosage instructions carefully. Giving ibuprofen with food is advised to prevent possible stomach upset.
Do not give a child aspirin if you
think he may have the mumps.The combination of aspirin and a viral infection
has been linked to the development of Reye's syndrome, a dangerous liver
Because mumps is a viral illness, antibiotic therapy is ineffective and therefore not appropriate.
Warm or cool compresses applied to the site of the swollen glands may help relieve the pain and tenderness.
If your son has a case of mumps that causes testicular pain, bed rest is particularly important. It may help lessen the pain if you support the scrotum by using cotton held in place by an adhesive-tape "bridge" between the thighs, and/or if you apply ice packs. In rare cases, where pain and swelling are extremely severe, a corticosteroid may be prescribed to combat these symptoms.