What is mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection of the parotid gland, a gland which produces saliva and is located in front of and below each ear. If your child has mumps, he or she was exposed to another person with mumps 16 to 18 days earlier.

With mumps your child will have:

  • a swollen parotid gland in front of the ear and crossing the corner of the jaw (both parotid glands are swollen in 70% of children)
  • tenderness of the swollen gland
  • increased pain when chewing
  • fever over 100°F (37.8°C).

Mumps can be prevented if your child receives a mumps vaccine (as part of the MMR immunization) between 12 and 15 months of age.

How long does it last?

The fever is usually gone in 3 to 4 days. The swelling and pain are gone in 7 days.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Pain and fever relief

    Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). A cold pack put on the swollen area for 20 minutes may also relieve pain.

  • Diet
    • Avoid sour foods or citrus fruits that increase saliva production and parotid swelling.
    • Avoid foods that require lots of chewing.
    • Consider a liquid diet if chewing is very painful.
  • Contagiousness

    The disease is contagious until the swelling is gone (usually 6 or 7 days). Your child should be kept out of school and away from other children who have not had mumps or the mumps vaccine.

  • Mumps vaccine

    Children should have the first MMR shot when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second when they are 4 to 6 years old. If your child or teen has not received the mumps vaccine and has not had mumps, he or she needs to get the vaccine.

    Those who are not protected should call their healthcare provider during office hours to see if the mumps vaccine would be helpful. Adult and teen males who get mumps have a 25% chance of having a swollen testicle along with the other symptoms of mumps. Usually only one testicle is affected. If swelling occurs in just one testicle it won't cause fertility problems. Even if both testicles become swollen, it rarely causes sterility.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?


  • Your child develops a stiff neck or severe headache.
  • Your child vomits repeatedly.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • The swelling lasts more than 7 days.
  • The fever lasts more than 4 days.
  • The skin over the mumps gland becomes reddened.
  • Your son's testicle becomes painful.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick”, American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-19
Last reviewed: 2011-06-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.