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Baby health A-Z: Mumps

Baby health A-Z: Mumps

If your little one’s been off colour and now has developed a swelling in the face and neck below the ears – he could have a dose of mumps.

What is mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection spread via droplets of saliva that are either inhaled or picked up from surfaces. Since the introduction of the MMR (Mumps, Measles, Rubella) vaccine in 1988, mumps is less common than it used to be. Your child will receive their first MMR vaccine at 12-13 months with a booster before they start school.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually occur 14-25 days after your baby’s been infected. Swelling in one or both of the parotid glands – the glands just below the ears responsible for saliva production – is common. The swelling is caused by the virus reproducing in the glands. It can be painful and cause difficulty swallowing. Your child may have seemed generally unwell in the few days leading up to their glands swelling – they might have been sleepy, had no appetite and had a temperature.

What can you do?

There is no treatment and the virus usually passes within a week or two but until then give your baby infant paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain, encourage them to drink water (acidic fruit juices aggravate the parotid glands) and if they’re weaning offer soft foods that don’t require much chewing – scrambled egg and mash potato are good. Put a cold compress on the swelling to ease discomfort.

When to see your GP?

If you suspect mumps you should always see your GP as they need to alert the local health protection unit. The HPU monitors the number of cases of mumps in the UK. They will give your baby a simple saliva test to confirm diagnosis. You must tell the surgery you suspect mumps in advance of your appointment so they can take necessary precautions to prevent someone else catching it. Mumps in adults can cause additional problems – a man can see swelling in his testes leading to a reduction in his sperm count.

You should see your GP again if your baby starts being sick, has stomach pain or is sensitive to light. Occasionally mumps can lead to viral meningitis – less dangerous than the bacterial form - or pancreatitis, short-term inflammation of the pancreas.

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