Mumps in Children: Care Instructions

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Mumps is a viral illness that causes painful swelling of the parotid glands, which are salivary glands between the ear and the jaw. Mumps can sometimes spread to the testicles, ovaries, or pancreas, or to the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Mumps is usually not a serious illness. It can be passed from one person to another when a person who has the mumps virus coughs or sneezes. Your child also can get it by touching people who have mumps or items that have the virus on them. A vaccine can prevent mumps. Most cases of mumps today occur in children who were not vaccinated.

Mumps goes away on its own. Home care can help your child feel better while getting over mumps. Talk with your doctor about follow-up care.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Keep your child home from school, day care, or other public places until 5 days after swelling of the glands began.
  • Put an ice or heat pack (whichever feels better) on the swollen jaw for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice or heat pack and your child's skin.
  • Have your child suck on ice chips or ice treats such as Popsicles. Give your child soft foods that do not have to be chewed much.
  • Do not give your child sour foods or liquids. The salivary glands are very sore during mumps. Eating these foods will usually cause them to hurt more.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child is confused, does not know where they are, or is extremely sleepy or hard to wake up.
  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has belly pain.
  • Your child has a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • Your child's fever goes up.
  • Your child's testicles hurt and are tender.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not feel better after 10 days of home treatment.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.