When you are a first-time mother, your doctor will tell you all about vaccinations, and especially the importance of vaccinating your child against mumps. The myths floating around childhood vaccines can put you in a quandary. Is mumps really that serious? Do you need to worry about it? MomJunction dissects mumps for you here. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for mumps in children. Take an informed decision as a mother.
What Is Mumps In Children?
The term mumps comes from old English. It means to have bumps or lumps within the cheeks. Mumps is an infection caused by a virus. It is a short-term infection that afflicts the salivary or parotid glands.
Mumps can cause swelling of the glands on both sides of the cheeks or just one side of the cheek. Medically, mumps is called epidemic parotitis, or inflammation of the parotid (salivary) glands.
This infection spreads quickly in schools and daycare centers where children congregate. Before the development of the MMR vaccine, mumps was highly prevalent in schools and other close quarter settings like daycares. However, today, children who have been vaccinated against mumps are at an extremely low risk of contracting the virus. The MMR vaccine is part of the childhood vaccination program.
[ Read: Infections In Children ]
Causes Of Mumps In Children:
Mumps in kids occurs due to an infection by the mumps virus. This virus belongs to a group of viruses referred to as paramyxoviruses . This infection affects children rather frequently.
The mumps virus tends to move from the mouth, nose, and throat (respiratory tract) to the parotid glands on either side of the face. These glands are responsible for producing saliva. The virus then starts reproducing and multiplying, causing the glands to swell up and turn painful.
The fluid that flows through the spine and brain and protects them is known as CSF or cerebrospinal fluid. The mumps virus is dangerous because it can reach the cerebrospinal fluid or move to other organs of the body, like the pancreas, ovaries (in females), testicles (in males) and the brain.
Some of the ways your little one contracts mumps include:
1. Saliva Droplets:
The mumps virus, as you know, is extremely contagious and spreads mainly through inhalation of infected drops of saliva. If an infected child sneezes or coughs, the virus-laden droplets stay suspended in the air. And, if your child inhales these droplets, he could contract mumps.
2. Sharing Utensils and Glasses:
Another way that mumps spreads quickly among children is when they share spoons, bottles, and glasses. The virus is present in an infected child’s saliva and sharing utensils and glasses transmits the virus.
3. Touching A Surface Infected By The Virus:
When an infected child touches his mouth or nose and then touches another surface such as a door or a table, he transfers the virus to that surface. When your child touches the surface and then touches his mouth or nose, the virus makes its way into his body.
Remember, it is possible for your child to contract mumps from someone who is infected with the virus, but does not have any visible symptom of the infection.
Symptoms Of Mumps In Children:
The primary indication of mumps is the swelling up of the parotid glands. These glands become extremely painful after the first three days, and children find it tough to swallow food, talk, sip drinks, and chew food.
It is not always the case that both the left and right glands become swollen. Sometimes, swelling may only occur in one gland, and in other cases, both the parotid glands can get infected.
The mumps virus rarely affects other salivary glands besides the parotid glands. But in case this does happen, swelling may take place under the jaw or tongue or the chest.
The symptoms that your child may get during the first week, after the glands get inflamed, include:
- Swelling of the neck
- Experiencing nausea
- Stiff neck
- Dry mouth
- High fever (103 degrees Fahrenheit or 39 degrees Celsius)
- Mild abdominal pain
- Joint aches
- Frequent bouts of vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- General feeling of sickness
- An earache (especially while chewing)
- Sour taste in the mouth
Risks and Complications Of Mumps In Children:
There are quite a few risks and complications associated with mumps. Most of them rarely occur, but it is always good to be prepared so that you can take the right action at the correct time.
Mumps can result in swelling or inflammation of certain organs, like the reproductive organs and brain. Some of the complications arising from mumps are:
Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain due to the infection by the mumps virus. In some cases, encephalitis can have life-threatening consequences and can even result in neurological issues.
If your child experiences any sudden intense headaches, seizures or loss of consciousness while having mumps, it could be a cause for concern. Rush your kid to the ER.
This condition is the inflammation of the pancreas. Some of the symptoms of pancreatitis are nausea, vomiting bouts, and upper abdominal pain. This condition can have dangerous effects on your child, such as the damage of tissues, the formation of cysts, bleeding of certain glands and other infections.
Orchitis results in swelling of the testicles in males who have crossed the age of puberty. This swelling can occur due to a virus or bacterium. Usually, just one testicle is affected, but in some cases, both testicles can get inflamed and swollen. It is closely associated with the mumps virus and is known to develop about four to six days from the first day that the symptoms appeared. Only some extremely rare cases of orchitis result in the male becoming sterile (being unable to father a child).
If the virus moves through the blood and infects the nervous system, it can result in meningitis. This condition is the inflammation of the meninges or the membranes which protect the spinal cord and brain. Some of the main symptoms of meningitis include fever, severe headaches, the rigidity of muscles, and sensitivity to light.
5. Hearing Loss:
In certain rare cases, mumps can result in the loss of hearing. The loss can be restricted to one ear, but can occur in both ears. In very severe cases, it could cause permanent loss of hearing. This mumps virus tends to affect the cochlea, which is an essential part of the inner ear responsible for facilitating hearing.
[ Read: Hearing Loss In Children ]
If your child has a severe infection, it can travel to the brain. This condition causes the brain to swell, resulting in encephalitis. Unfortunately, encephalitis is a life-threatening condition and can also lead to neurological problems in your child .
Diagnosis and Tests For Mumps In Children:
If a doctor feels that your child has mumps, he will recommend a blood test or virus culture to confirm his suspicions.
The function of the immune system of the body is to make antibodies, which fight off infections entering the body. So if your child is suffering from mumps, an antibody test would help detect the presence of mumps-fighting antibodies in his body. Also, the test will allow the pathologist to determine the levels of the antibodies.
1. Serological Or Antibody Testing:
This test is used to track outbreaks and diagnose whether a child has mumps. The immune system produces two types of antibodies whenever a person is infected with mumps virus or is vaccinated – IgG and IgM antibodies.
The IgM antibodies usually show up first in the blood, whereas the IgG antibodies show up after a long period, but provide protection against re-infection. Two samples of blood – the second obtained after two weeks of the first test – can be tested for antibodies. If antibodies are present, the doctor will confirm your child has mumps.
2. Viral Genetic Testing Or RT-PCR:
This test involves molecular testing methods or culturing of the virus to identify active infections of the mumps virus and the virus’ genetic strain. This test requires very specific gadgets and equipment. Hence, all laboratories may not be equipped to carry it out.
Viral genetic testing also helps the doctor find out the cause of certain problems/complications which arise due to mumps infection. Furthermore, some kids may not have usual levels of antibodies present in their systems due to a weak immune system. In such cases, the doctor resorts to a viral culture or viral genetic testing to confirm the diagnosis.
What To Do First When Your Child Contracts Mumps?
If you suspect your child has mumps, don’t fret! Of course, you should take your child to see a doctor as soon as possible. But in the meantime, you can ease his discomfort by giving him OTC painkillers, such as Advil, Motrin IB or Ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen belongs to the NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) group and works wonders for fever, inflammation, and alleviating pain. You could also give him Tylenol or Acetaminophen, but with care. Overdosing can be dangerous.
[ Read: Ibuprofen For Kids ]
Acetaminophen is an antipyretic (helps in bringing down fevers). It also is an analgesic (a pain reliever). It is very useful for the excruciating headaches and jaw pain that your child will experience with mumps.
Remember, avoid giving aspirin to a child who is younger than sixteen and who has a viral disease because aspirin has been linked with catching Reye’s Syndrome, which is a condition where the liver and brain swell up. It can lead to major complications!
Make sure your child rests a lot. This helps kick-start his immune system. Do not let him go to school as his infection is contagious. You should send your child back to school only after the doctor gives his seal of approval. It is only during the first week after symptoms manifest that your child will put other kids at risk.
How Long Will It Take For Your Child To Recover?
It usually takes about ten to 12 days for a child to recover from mumps. Both the salivary glands do not swell at the same time. The swelling in each parotid gland takes about a week to go down.
Treatments & Solutions For Mumps In Children:
The only way the mumps virus leaves the system of an infected person is when the immune system of the body fights it off. Hence, the best way to get your child’s immune system up and rearing to go is to try and relieve the symptoms of the infection.
As of now, there are no specific medications for treating mumps. Also, since mumps is a virus, it cannot really be treated with antibiotics. The mumps virus usually leaves the system after a week or two.
Of course, there are certain measures that you can take to ensure that your child has a speedy recovery from mumps. Some of them are:
1. Warm/Cool Compresses:
Press a warm/cool compress to the glands that are swollen due to mumps. By doing this, your child will get some relief from the pain. Remember do not keep the compress for more than 10 minutes.
2. Bed Rest:
The best way to help your child get better faster is to ensure that he gets proper bed rest until he receives a clean bill of health from the doctor. Keep him in bed and shower him with lots of love and attention.
3. Diet Of Easily Chewable Food:
Give your child food that is easy to chew like mashed potatoes, yogurt, pasta, pudding, scrambled eggs, and soup. This will not hurt your child’s jaws and also make sure he gets some nourishment.
There are some painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, which are easily available at any pharmacy. These can reduce pain, and the accompanying fever  Give your child an appropriate dosage after checking with the pediatrician. Do keep in mind that under no circumstances should Aspirin be administered to children below the age of 16 as it could lead to severe complications, including liver failure.
[ Read: Safe Painkillers For Children ]
Ensure that your child drinks plenty of fluids so that he does not become dehydrated due to the fever. Try not to give him any acidic drinks like cola, orange juice, lemonade and grapefruit juice, as these can negatively affect the parotid glands. Instead, encourage your kid to drink water. It will help flush out the toxins and facilitate a quicker recovery. You can give your kid green tea with honey or decaffeinated soft drinks. These will not irritate the swollen glands like other acidic beverages.
Keep in mind, however, that if your child’s symptoms don’t show any sign of improvement after about six to seven days, you need to take your child to see a doctor immediately.
Home Remedies For Mumps In Children:
There are plenty of natural home remedies that help with the symptoms of mumps and also aid faster recovery. As these are natural remedies, they don’t have harmful side effects. However, it is best first consult your pediatrician. You do not want the home treatments interfering with the medication the doctor may have prescribed for your kid.
It has excellent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a good pain reliever.
Take dried ginger roots, make a powder out of them and turn it into a paste. Apply this paste to the swollen areas reduce swelling. You can also add ginger to the food that your child will consume.
2. Fenugreek Seeds:
These seeds have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory qualities which make them perfect for dealing with mumps.
Take dried fenugreek seeds, powder them using a pestle and mortar, and then add some water to make a thick paste. Apply the paste on your child’s swollen glands for instant pain relief. Alternatively, mix the fenugreek seed powder in a glass of water and let your kid drink it several times a day.
3. Black Pepper Powder:
Black pepper has been used since time immemorial to fight infections. So it is useful even for mumps. It can help alleviate the swelling caused by the infection.
Take a small amount of black pepper and crush into a powder. Add some water to make a thick paste. Apply this paste to the swollen parts to reduce swelling.
4. Aloe Vera:
Aloe vera has antibiotic qualities and works wonders for treating inflammation. Peel one side of the leaf to reveal the gelatinous flesh. Sprinkle a little turmeric powder on the peeled side. Then, use this side as a bandage over the swollen areas.
5. Asparagus Seeds:
Anecdotal evidence show when asparagus seeds are combined with fenugreek seeds, they help in easing swelling.
Mix asparagus seeds with fenugreek seeds and grind into a paste. Apply this paste to the swelling you child has to provide relief from the inflammation.
6. Fig Leaves:
Figs leaves have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. So the leaves are just what you need when your child has mumps.
Apply a little oil or clarified butter to the fig leaves and warm them gently. Then press these warm leaves to the inflamed areas and leave for about half an hour. It will help reduce the swelling and also fight the mumps-causing virus.
The anti-inflammatory properties of garlic are legendary. You can use these properties to reduce the mumps symptoms in children.
Crush few cloves of garlic into a paste. Apply this paste to the jaw and neck for fast pain relief.
[ Read: Garlic For Kids ]
8. Neem Leaves:
Besides helping fight the swelling, neem leaves also have the ability to combat viruses.
Combine the leaves with some turmeric powder and make a paste. Apply this paste on your kid’s jaws and neck to help alleviate pain.
9. Banyan Tree Leaves:
Banyan tree leaves have anti-inflammatory properties. So using these leaves can contribute to reducing inflammation and pain that your child has.
Cover the leaves with clarified butter and heat them a little bit. Then place on the neck. Secure the leaves with a bandage. It will provide immense relief to your child.
10. Ink Fruit Or Chebulic Myrobalan:
The anti-inflammatory property of the Ink Fruit helps to reduce swelling and minimize pain.
This fruit is available in health food stores in powder form. Use water to make a thick paste and apply on the swollen jaw and neck. It will provide relief for your little one.
Preventive Measures For Mumps In Children:
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your kid will be immune to the mumps virus if he has contracted mumps before. Alternatively, you can prevent your little one from getting the infection by vaccinating against it.
- The MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella) protects your child from the mumps virus. As soon as your child is about 12-15 months of age, he needs the first dose of the vaccine .
- The pediatrician will administer the second dose between the ages of four and six, or at the age of 11.
- The vaccine provides up to 95% protection against the infection . It is crucial you give your little one two doses of the vaccine as a single dose is said to be ineffective against mumps.
- There are chances your child can contract mumps even after vaccination. Also, just one dosage of this vaccine is useless in case of an epidemic or outbreak of mumps your neighborhood or your kid’s school.
[ Read: MMR Vaccine For Children ]
So, how exactly does the mumps disease spread? You may already be aware that this infection is highly contagious. The infection spread the same way flu and colds spread. Inhaling contaminated airborne droplets of saliva and touching contaminated surfaces and later using the same hand to touch your mouth or nose are the usual ways your kid contracts mumps. You need to remember an infected kid is contagious a few days before the symptoms manifest.
If the pediatrician says your little one has mumps, you can prevent the spread of infection by taking the following precautions:
- Make sure your child washes his hands properly with soap before touching anything in the house.
- Teach your child to sneeze and blow his nose into a tissue. Keep a waste paper bin near his bed so that he can dispose of the tissue after each use.
- Clean the surfaces your kid touches with a disinfectant.
- Do let other family members share utensils and glasses with your child. 
If your child has already contracted mumps once in his childhood, the chances of it recurring are very low. But, it is imperative that your child takes the MMR vaccine twice during his childhood. So consult your pediatrician today.
Has your child contracted mumps? When did you notice the symptoms and how did you help your child with the infection? We want to hear from you. So feel free to comment below.
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