Mumps: How Long Are You Infectious?
A large swelling on one side of the face is the most obvious sign of mumps. It is caused by a saliva-producing gland swelling up in front of the ear and over the angle of the jaw.
A day or two later the gland on the opposite side of the face may also swell. Other saliva-producing glands under the tongue and under the jaw may also be affected.
A person with mumps may also suffer earache and pain in the jaw when eating.
Who gets it?
Mumps is a common infection, mostly affecting children over the age of two, and occurs in epidemics every three or four years. But it can also attack older people, and may cause inflammation of the testicles in men, inflammation of the ovaries in women, and inflammation of the pancreas in both sexes, producing pain in the abdomen. It can also cause viral meningitis.
The illness is usually over within a week. Someone who has had mumps is unlikely to catch it again.
What you should do
• Keep the patient at rest for a few days.
• If chewing is painful, offer soups and drinks.
• If a testicle is swollen or sore, support the scrotum with close-fitting underpants or an athletic support. Take a painkiller such as paracetamol in recommended doses.
• All children should be immunised with MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine in their second year.
When you should call the doctor
• If the testicles are swollen or sore.
• If there is severe or persistent earache.
• If there is severe or persistent pain in the abdomen – the lower part of the trunk.
• If there is severe headache, with a stiff neck.
• If the patient finds light uncomfortable.
HOW LONG IS IT INFECTIOUS?
Sufferers from mumps are infectious for about six days before the glands begin to swell, and remain infectious for a further two weeks. As it is impossible to prevent spread of the disease in the symptomless period, there is usually no point in isolating the patient once the disease has started to show itself.