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This page was reviewed or revised on Friday, October 28, 2011 2:50 PM

What is mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus. It can be prevented by vaccination. Before the mumps vaccine, mumps was a very common illness for infants, children and young adults. However, because most people in Ontario have been vaccinated, very few cases are reported.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of mumps may appear within 12 to 25 days after exposure to the virus and may include: 

  • Painful swelling of the glands at the jaw line (salivary glands - may be one or both) 
  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle aches and pains 
  • Tiredness 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Respiratory symptoms similar to a cold may also occur.

Mumps can be accompanied by no symptoms. Adults who get the mumps are more likely to have serious problems than children.

If you had mumps as a child you are likely immune. A very small number could get re-infected with mumps.

How is it spread?

Mumps is spread person-to-person through close or direct contact with saliva or respiratory secretions (coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing drinks and utensils, cigarettes). Mumps virus may spread up to 7 days before the glands begin to swell and for up to 9 days after. It takes about 2-3 weeks to get the mumps after being in contact with someone with the disease.

What can I do?

  • Contact a doctor if you have signs and symptoms of mumps. 
  • Make sure MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) records are up-to-date. 
  • Keep the person with mumps away from childcare, school, work or public places for at least 10 days after the symptoms appear. 
  • Avoid contact with infants (children less than one year of age) or others who are not immune to mumps through vaccination or past infection, especially pregnant women and individuals with a weakened immune system. 
  • Wash your hands well and often with soap. It can help prevent the spread of mumps and other infections. 
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils. Objects and surfaces that are regularly touched (toys, counters, doorknobs, phones, etc) should be cleaned with soap and water or other cleaning agents.


There is no treatment for mumps. The use of Acetaminophen (e.g. Tempra® or Tylenol®) as well as hot or cold compresses may relieve the pain in the gland area.

When can I return to childcare, school or work?

You can return in 9 days after onset of swelling.


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