What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious infection caused by a type of virus called a paramyxovirus. Mumps normally affects children, but can occur at any age. It mainly affects the saliva-producing glands that are located near the ears. Mumps can cause swelling in one or both of these glands. Due to this swelling it often gives children and adults a distinctive “hamster face” appearance.

The following is a summary about the disease. For further details speak to your local pharmacist or GP.

Related: Measles | Rubella

How is mumps spread?

Mumps is very contagious. It is spread in the saliva from an infected person coughing or sneezing. Or through touching objects which are contaminated with the virus (such as: door handles).1

Who is at risk from mumps?

Mumps is now rare in the UK as children are routinely immunised against mumps.

What are the signs and symptoms of mumps?

The incubation period for mumps is 14-25 days after infection. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the salivary glands
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

In some cases, mumps does not cause any noticeable symptoms.2

What are the complications of mumps?

Occasionally complications may develop and can include:

  • Inflammation of the testes or ovaries
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis or meningitis)
  • Hearing loss
  • Inflammation of the pancreas, heart and other organs

In pregnant women, infection of mumps in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage.2

What is the treatment for mumps?

There is no specific treatment for mumps. The infection usually takes 2 weeks to pass and treatment aims to ease symptoms:

  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen to east pain and fever
  • Plenty of water to maintain hydration
  • Avoid drink fruit juices as these can stimulate the salivary gland and cause pain
  • Warm flannel to soothe the pain caused by the swollen glands
  • Eat foods that do not require a lot of chewing2

What advice is there for travellers?

It’s important to prevent the infection spreading by:

  • Stay at home for 5 days after symptoms developed
  • Wash hands regularly
  • Always use a tissue to cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in a bin immediately afterwards.2

When to consider vaccination

The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination is given on the NHS as a single injection to babies as part of their routine vaccination schedule. It is given

  • 1st dose: within a month of their 1st birthday
  • 2nd dose: 3 years and 4 month

MMR vaccination is also recommended for:

  • Older children up to the age of 18 who have missed or are only partially vaccinated (not had 2 doses of the vaccination)
  • Women planning for pregnancy (not suitable once they are pregnant)3
  • Measles vaccination was included in the MMR vaccination in 1988. People who were too old to be routinely vaccinated or only received 1 dose


MMR vaccines contain live, attenuated (modified) strains of measles, mumps and rubella viruses. MMR vaccine does not contain thiomersal or any other preservatives.3


This information is taken from trusted third party websites, NaTHNaC (Travel Health Pro) and EMIS (Patient info) and use of all information has been licenced under the Open Government Licence

Although the materials are being used/replicated under the provisions of the Open Government Licence this in no way represents endorsement of by NaTHNaC, Emis, Public Health England, the NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.


  1. Patient.Info: Mumps
  2. NHS: Mumps
  3. The Green Book: Chapter 23: Mumps