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That's Not Chickenpox: Learn About Mumps Symptoms and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Sky Abundo · Updated Feb 16, 2023

That's Not Chickenpox: Learn About Mumps Symptoms and Treatment

Do you find that your mouth is swollen and painful while you’re experiencing fever? Chances are, you probably have mumps. While getting mumps shouldn’t be a cause for concern during childhood, getting it when you’re an adult may be more serious. In this article we will be discussing mumps symptoms, causes, risks, as well as ways to treat it.

What are mumps?

Mumps is a contagious viral disease that is caused by the paramyxovirus. Sometimes called infectious parotitis, mumps is spread through human to human transmission either by direct contact or airborne droplets. Mumps usually target the salivary glands that are found in the mouth.

Children are usually affected by this disease. However, there should be no cause for concern if you contract this disease as a child. Normal forms of treatment should be enough to fight off the infection.

However, if you contract this disease as an adult, more serious complications might arise. This is because the virus might spread to other parts of your body.

Mumps symptoms: Causes 

The paramyxovirus usually enters the body through the respiratory tract. This means that the virus can travel from your nose and mouth to your throat. Once inside, the virus will infect the parotid glands in your mouth. These glands are responsible for producing the saliva in your mouth. Once infected, the virus will cause these glands to swell.

While uncommon, the mumps virus can also find their way to your cerebrospinal fluid. This is the fluid that surrounds and protects your brain and spine. Once there, they can then spread to other parts of the body like a male’s testes or the female’s ovaries. Other possible areas of concern can be the brain or the pancreas.

Mumps symptoms

Mumps symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Generally feeling sick
  • Dry mouth
  • Mild abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (38C or above)
  • Chewing and swallowing is painful

There are rare occasions when mumps will not manifest noticeable symptoms.

Mumps symptoms: Complications

Mumps can possibly spread to other parts of the body. Once it does, it can lead to further complications. These risks are more likely if you contract mumps as an adult.

Here are some possible complications from contracting mumps:

Swollen testicle

For men, the virus can spread from your parotid glands to your testicles. This will usually cause only one testicle to swell and become tender. While rare, a swollen testicle due to mumps might cause infertility

Swollen ovaries

Just like in men, the virus can also spread to a female’s reproductive organs. This can cause lower abdominal pain, fever, and a general feeling of being sick. Luckily, this is a rare occurrence and these symptoms will usually abate once the body has fought off the sickness.

Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis occurs if mumps ends up spreading to the brain. Unlike bacterial meningitis, the risk of death from viral meningitis is low. The patient will however end up developing flu-like symptoms as well as sensitivity to light, soreness in the neck, and headaches.


The virus can also spread to the pancreas. While rare, this can cause you to feel a sudden pain in your belly. Along with pain, you might also experience diarrhea, a loss of appetite and jaundice.


While incredibly rare, contracting mumps can lead to a condition known as encephalitis. This is potentially life threatening and requires intensive care.

Mumps symptoms: Treatment and prevention

There is currently no cure for mumps. Most treatment is centered around relieving and alleviating symptoms until your body’s antibodies fight the virus off. Adequate bed rest and proper nutrition is advised while you are fighting the virus. In addition, you should take care not to spread the virus further by isolating yourself.

While there is still no cure for mumps, there are vaccines that you can take to provide immunity against it. It is advised to get a shot to prevent yourself from contracting it.

Key takeaway

While it’s a harmless childhood infection, mumps can still be concerning if contracted by adults. Mumps symptoms include getting a headache, joint pain, dry mouth, fever, and painful chewing and swallowing. Proper vaccination is needed as a precaution against this virus.

Learn about other Viral Infections here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Sky Abundo · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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