Mumps: Not just a teething problem

Mumps - also known as goat peter or parotitis epidemica - is a viral disease that primarily affects children. However, adults can also become infected with mumps. The most typical symptom is thick cheeks (hamster cheeks), which are caused by a swelling of the parotid glands. In general, mumps is harmless, but in adolescents and adults can sometimes severe complications occur. That's why it makes sense to prevent mumps with a vaccine.

Mumps - What is it?

Mumps is a contagious viral disease that occurs worldwide. The viruses are spread by droplet infection, that is, they can be transmitted, for example, when coughing or sneezing. Even through direct contact, such as when kissing, infection is possible. Anyone who has ever contracted mumps is usually immune to the virus for the rest of their lives.

After infection, it usually takes between two and four weeks for the disease to break out. Mumps is already contagious before the first symptoms appear: usually, there is a risk of infection already seven days before and up to nine days after the first signs have occurred.

Particularly common is mumps in children between the age of five and the ninth - that is why mumps are counted as measles, rubella or chickenpox to the typical childhood illnesses. Mumps can occur all year round - however, many cases are observed in winter and spring.

Symptoms of mumps

In about one third of those affected mumps runs without or with only unspecific symptoms. Signs may include headache, throat or body aches, loss of appetite, and a general feeling of fatigue. Frequently, the body temperature is increased or fever occurs. Due to these symptoms, Mumps is sometimes confused with a common febrile cold.

While general disease symptoms are noticeable at the beginning of the disease, the parotid glands later characteristically swell. The swelling usually occurs on one side and a little later on the other side. The swelling form the typical for Mumps hamster cheeks. Frequently, the lymph nodes in the neck are swollen. Due to the swelling, turning the head and chewing are often associated with pain.

In addition to the parotid glands, the mumps viruses can also affect organs such as the pancreas and testes and in rare cases the ovaries, lacrimal glands, thyroid, kidneys and the central nervous system.

Mumps: Possible complications

In children, mumps usually goes harmless and the disease has no consequences. If the infection occurs at a later date, however, some serious consequences may occur.

  • Meningitis: Meningitis is the most common complication in children. About three to ten percent of children with mumps are affected. Typical symptoms of meningitis include severe headache and neck stiffness. If the brain tissue is involved, it is called an encephalitis - this occurs in a mumps disease but rarely. If the cranial nerves are affected, this can result in deafness or deafness.
  • Inflammation of the testicles (orchitis): If the mumps virus attacks the testes after puberty, this can lead to a fertility. Testicular inflammations are relatively common in young men, almost every third person is affected. In infants, infertility may also be present in young women - however, in women such inflammation is much less common than in men.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis): Pancreatitis can be manifested by symptoms such as loss of appetite, pain in the upper abdomen and a greasy bowel movement.

Other, though rare, complications include inflammation of the mammary glands (mastitis) or inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).

Mumps: Diagnosis

Mumps is often already diagnosed on the basis of the typical swelling of the parotid glands. If this swelling is absent, the disease can also be detected by specific antibodies against the mumps virus in the blood.

Treat mumps

The mumps viruses themselves can not be controlled, it can only be a symptomatic therapy. For example, antipyretic analgesics can be administered. However, children should not be given painkillers with acetylsalicylic acid, as otherwise the life-threatening Reye syndrome may occur.

The swelling of the parotid glands is helped by warm oil dressings and good oral hygiene. Often, the cooling of the parotid glands is perceived as pleasant. In order to minimize the pain during chewing, the consumption of soft, mushy foods is recommended in the first place. Acidic liquids should be avoided as otherwise the salivary glands will work more often.

If complications occur, a doctor should be consulted in any case. He will decide if further treatment is needed. Severe complications such as meningitis require treatment in the hospital.

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