Mumps

What are the signs and symptoms of mumps in children and adults?

Nonspecific symptoms of low-grade fever, headache, muscle aches (myalgia), reduced appetite, and malaise occur during the first 48 hours of mumps infection. Parotid gland swelling characteristically is present on day three of illness. (The parotid gland is a salivary gland located anterior to the ear and above the angle of the jaw -- imagine a large set of sideburns.) The parotid gland is swollen and tender to touch, and referred pain to the ear may also occur. Parotid gland swelling may last up to 10 days, and adults generally experience worse symptoms than children. Approximately 95% of individuals who develop symptoms of mumps will experience tender inflammation of their parotid glands.

Interestingly about 15%-20% of mumps cases have no clinical evidence of infection, and 50% of patients will have only nonspecific respiratory symptoms and not the characteristic description above. Adults are more likely to experience such a subclinical or respiratory-only constellation of symptoms while children between 2-9 years of age are more likely to experience the classic presentation of mumps with parotid gland swelling.

How do health-care professionals diagnose mumps?

The diagnosis of mumps is primarily one of clinical acumen. Laboratory studies are generally done to support the clinical impression. The purpose of these laboratory studies is to exclude other viruses that may give a similar clinical presentation as well as to exclude very infrequent similarly presenting parotid gland enlargement (for examples, salivary gland cancer, Sjögren's syndrome, IgG-4 related disease, sarcoidosis, side effects of thiazide diuretics, etc.).

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Reviewed on 5/17/2016
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