What is Mumps?
Mumps is an acute viral infection. It is characterised by the painful swelling of the parotid glands, which are located in the side of the face under the ears. This causes a distinctive ‘hamster face’ appearance. Unfortunately it is generally accompanied by a high fever, tiredness, headaches, joint and joint pain which can start to occur a few days before the swelling even appears. If you suspect you or your child has the mumps you need to phone the GP. It is important to let them know that you suspect mumps so that they can ensure you are not in close contact with other patients which would put them at risk of contracting the virus. Symptoms of Mumps typically appear 12-25 days after exposure. Symptoms usually have resolved within ten days.
Like other viral illnesses Mumps is spread through infected droplets of saliva that can be transferred through the nose or mouth (including contact with coughing and sneezing). A person with mumps is actually contagious for a few days before the swelling or other symptoms develop and for a few days afterwards so it can be difficult to slow the spread of this illness as we have seen over recent months! Hand hygiene, using tissues when sneezing and coughing, and avoiding school, creche or groups of people if you suspect your child has mumps is the best way to help to reduce the spread of Mumps.
The MMR Vaccine should be given once at 12-13 months and then again at 4-5 years. According to the HSPC ‘ All children should be age appropriately vaccinated. Older children and adults particularly those born since 1978, who never had the MMR vaccine or only one dose, should speak to their GP about getting the vaccine.Receiving two doses of MMR vaccine will protect about 88% of individuals who have received the vaccine against clinical mumps.
Age group most at risk of mumps
Teenagers and young adults in the 15-24 year age group are most at risk of mumps. Many of this age group are in educational settings where mumps occurs as a result of close person to person transmission in these settings.
The Vaccine has been given since 1988 but due to fears of a link with autism in the late 1990’s there are some teenagers and young adults who have not been vaccinated. Research has been undertaken since then and we now know that THERE IS NO LINK BETWEEN THE MMR AND AUTISM. If you’re unsure if your child has had both injections required to provide protection please check with your GP.
As of the 21st January 2020 the HSE is offering and urging anyone between 11 and 30 years of age who has not had the two doses of the MMR to avail of a free dose of vaccine. This is because there has been an outbreak of mumps in Ireland over the past several months with 11-18 year olds and adults up to 30 years of age particularly affected. These groups may not have received full vaccination and as Mumps is so infectious it spread particularly easily within creches, homes, schools, universities and camps etc. It can be a dangerous illness with potentially life changing repercussions and the MMR is the only hope of containing the spread at this point. Currently 91% of children have received the first dose of the vaccine by the age of two, but the target to prevent measles and mumps outbreaks is 95%.
Treatment of mumps is really all about treating the symptoms. Antibiotics etc will not help resolve mumps faster – you have to just focus on relieving your symptoms until the infection passes.
- Use over the counter pain killers to relieve sore glands, headaches and fever. If Paracetamol or Ibuprofen are not providing adequate pain relief for you or your child speak to your doctor as they may be able to offer further relief via prescription medicines or doses.
- Rest, rest and more rest! Seriously – no need to be a martyr – ask for help and hop into bed when you can. There’s no better way to help your immune system to battle this illness.
- Mind your jaw – the glands can get extremely sore and in addition to over the counter or prescribed pain killers it may be useful to apply a cold compress to help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Keep foods soft so that you’re not aggravating your glands with chewing. Think soup, mash, scrambled egg, jelly, and ice pops or ice creams for the kids.. and you 🙂
- Hydration – like all illnesses, it is important to make sure you don’t become dehydrated with mumps. Here is a link to my article all about dehydration and the signs and treatments!
Complications of Mumps
Common complications of mumps include:
- Orchitis – This affects about 20% of males who get mumps after puberty. It involved swelling and pain of the testicles. It usually occurs 4-8 days after the start of the mumps symptoms and generally resolves within a week. In a low number of cases it can have an impact on sperm count.
- Oophoritis – This affects about 5% of females who get mumps after puberty – and similar to the male version it causes pain and swelling of the ovaries and clears up once the symptoms of mumps pass.
- Pancreatitis – This is when there is inflammation of the pancreas. It affects approximately 5% of people who suffer from mumps.
- Viral Meningitis – swelling of the meninges which surround the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis is not as serious as bacterial meningitis but still is not pleasant and causes fever, headaches and other flu like symptoms.
The HSE say the MMR vaccine can be given at any age, so there may be circumstances where you are advised to have the MMR vaccine.
For example, if you were born between 1980-1990, you may not be protected against mumps. It is unlikely that you will have been previously exposed to a mumps infection, so vaccination may be recommended.
If you were born before 1978, it is unlikely that you have been vaccinated against mumps. While it is likely that you will have been previously exposed to mumps, vaccination may be recommended if you have a high risk of exposure to mumps.
If your child was not vaccinated remember that as of the 21st January 2020 the HSE is offering and urging anyone between 11 and 30 years of age who has not had the two doses of the MMR to avail of a free dose of vaccine.
I hope this has been helpful! As always, if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page or my website contact page or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262.