4 Things Parents Need To Know About Mumps

Mumps is a potentially serious viral illness that usually affects children, but adults can get it, too. It's spread in the same way as the common cold and the flu are (droplets from sneezes and coughs), so it's very easy to catch. Here's what you need to know about this illness.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Mumps doesn't always cause symptoms. About a third of people with mumps may not even know that they have it, while the rest will suffer from moderate to severe symptoms. The most common symptom is swelling of the glands in the sides of your neck, but many people will suffer from flu-like symptoms as well. Headaches, pain, fever, and exhaustion are all possible symptoms. 

Why is mumps such a big deal?

Flu-like symptoms may not seem like anything to worry about, but mumps can sometimes cause much more serious symptoms. About 15% of people with mumps will also develop meningitis, a serious infection that causes swelling of the spinal cord. This swelling can also spread to the brain, causing encephalitis. Encephalitis causes permanent damage to about 25% of people that contract it. Mumps is also a leading cause of deafness in children.

Is there a vaccine for mumps?

There has been an effective vaccine available for mumps since 1967. The vaccine protects not only against mumps but against two other dangerous viruses, measles and rubella. Doctors recommend two doses: one between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second before your child starts school. Adults who were never vaccinated are also able to get this vaccine from their doctor. 

Is mumps common?

Mumps isn't very common in the United States anymore, and that is thanks to the vaccine. Before there was an effective vaccine for mumps, about 186,000 Americans got it every single year. Mumps is still around since not everyone gets vaccinated, but it doesn't affect anywhere near as many people as it once did. In 2010, there were 2,612 cases of mumps, and in 2012, there were only 229. This huge decrease in mumps cases is proof that the vaccine works well. 

Mumps used to be a common childhood disease, but now that there's an effective vaccine, your child shouldn't have to worry about it. Talk to your family doctor about getting your child immunized against mumps right away. If you haven't been vaccinated, you should also get vaccinated to help keep your whole family safe and healthy.