Mumps: 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. You 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 people who were never vaccinated.

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

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

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Use an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). 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 take 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.
  • Adults with mumps also should stay home until 5 days after the swelling 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 the skin.
  • Suck on ice chips or frozen ice treats. Eat soft foods that do not have to be chewed much.
  • Do not eat 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 you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are confused, do not know where you are, or are extremely sleepy or hard to wake up.
  • You have a seizure.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have belly pain.
  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • Your fever goes up.
  • Your testicles hurt and are tender.

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

  • You do 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.