Mumps is a contagious viral infection that affects the salivary glands. Before a vaccine was introduced, mumps was a common illness of childhood. Because most children in the United States receive the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine between the ages of 12 and 15 months, the number of cases has been reduced significantly. A second dose of the vaccine is required, which can be given as early as 28 days after the first dose. Often, however, children receive the second dose when they are between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
Mumps is spread through contact with the saliva or mucous from an infected person, sharing cups, or touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. Symptoms typically appear 16 to 18 days after infection, but the period can range from 12 to 25 days. They can include swollen or tender salivary glands under the ears, fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
There is no specific treatment for the mumps. Getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and staying at home until the symptoms have gone away are the best ways to treat the illness. One week after diagnosis, patients are no longer considered contagious and can return to their normal activities.
By far the best way to prevent getting the mumps is to be vaccinated between the ages of 12 and 15 months. It is important, too, to make sure that you receive both doses of the vaccine. The recommendation for two doses was not made until the late 1980s, so anyone born before then should get the second dose now. The only adults who should not be vaccinated are pregnant women, those who have had a life-threatening reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin, and those with severely compromised immune systems.