The mumps is a viral infection that is highly contagious. Before the introduction of the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine, it was very common in children. When affected, the parotid glands on the side of the face would swell up, which creates the appearance of a hamster face.
Symptoms of Mumps
The swollen cheeks are generally a telltale sign of the virus being present. It is often accompanied by joint pain, headaches and a fever. Usually, this starts after the mumps incubation period. If you believe you are spotting the symptoms, you must seek medical attention straight away. This is not because it is a particularly dangerous infection, but more because scientists are trying to eradicate it. Because it is so contagious, you must also tell your doctor that you suspect mumps before going, as they may prefer to come to you.
Who Can Get Mumps?
The MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988. Before then, mumps was incredibly common and most school-aged children were affected. Now, however, it isn’t so common anymore, although it still seems to affect mainly children, particularly those who have not received the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine. Once you have had mumps, you are immune for life.
The Spread of Mumps
Mumps is highly contagious and spreads in the same way as the flu or cold – by saliva. People are contagious during incubation, as well as for a few days after they have symptoms. This is why you must try not to spread the infection and keep the affected person away from those who did not have the vaccination after 1988 (such as teenagers and adolescents). Good hand hygiene is very important, as well as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Mumps is easily prevented by giving your child the MMR vaccine, which includes the mumps vaccination. However, if you are too old for this, or if you don’t want to give your child it, you must be very careful about what is being touched, and always keep your hands clean.
Treatment of Mumps
Mumps is not curable, but it should only take a week or two for the infection to go on its own. Generally, over the counter painkillers are sufficient to make the person comfortable, as well as cold compresses against the swollen glands.
More often than not, mumps will simply pass without any real damage. However, there are possible complications to be aware of. The most serious is the development of viral meningitis, which will happen if the virus is able to reach the outer brain layer. Males also often experience swollen testicles, and women will get swollen ovaries. This is only if they have already gone through puberty, but does demonstrate how important it is to vaccinate children against the mumps virus, as this could potentially lead to fertility problems.