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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.