April 17, 2009

Symptoms & Treatment for Mumps In Adults

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Mumps is a contagious illness that generally affects children. However, of late there has been an increase in the number of adult cases of mumps. Apart from the unpleasant symptoms associated with the illness, mumps in adults may cause serious complications and health problems if not prevented or treated in time.

Irrespective of whether it affects adults or children, a RNA virus from the Paramyxovirus family causes mumps. The virus lives in the mucus of the nose and throat and the saliva of the infected person. When the person sneezes or coughs, drops of mucus or saliva are sprayed through the air. These infected droplets enter another person’s mouth, nose or throat and the infection spreads rapidly from person to person. Mumps is especially contagious for pregnant women.

Transmission of Mumps

When a person gets infected, the virus multiplies inside the nose, throat, and lymph glands and enters the blood stream to affect other parts of the body as well. There is a lag between the time the virus invades the body and when the symptoms become evident. This is known as the incubation period and can vary from 16 to 18 days from the initial infection. There have been cases, where a person is infected with mumps even though no symptoms develop. The contagious period of mumps begins around three days before the salivary glands get swollen until 9 days after the onset of the symptoms.

The most common symptoms of mumps in adults include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Swollen salivary glands (parotitis). These glands are located near your jaw line, under your ears, and in your cheeks. Swelling can last for up to ten days from the onset of the illness.

Additional ailments may include:

  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Body aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to swallow
  • Sore throat

Getting mumps as an adult increases your chances of other medical complications such as:

  • Deafness
  • Orchitis or inflammation of the testes in males that can lead to sterility
  • Encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or tissues of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Inflammation of the ovaries
  • Inflammation of the breasts (mastitis)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Mumps in early pregnancy may result in the spontaneous abortion of the fetus

Treating Mumps in Adults
Currently, there is no treatment to get rid of the mumps virus in adults. Treatment for adult mumps tends to stress on providing relief from the symptoms and reducing the duration of the illness. Since there is not much your doctor can do, it is best to take it easy, get enough rest, bring down the fever and body ache with over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin and drink plenty of liquids. Avoid citrus fruit and fruit juices as these can aggravate the salivary glands. Cold compresses on the jaw line and under the ears can also help reduce pain and swelling. If symptoms have not lessened after two weeks contact your doctor again.

You could also try some home remedies to relieve symptoms such as:

  • Apply a solution of water and a pinch of soda bicarbonate on the swollen areas. Leave to dry for a few minutes before wiping off. Repeat this at least thrice a day to reduce swelling.
  • Alternatively, make a paste of ground up asparagus and fenugreek seeds or ground up ginger and water and apply this to the cheeks and under the jaw line to reduce swelling.

Preventing Mumps
The only definite way to prevent mumps in adults is with the mumps vaccine. In the US, the mumps vaccine is combined with vaccines for measles and rubella and is known as the MMR vaccine. If you are older than 18 and have not yet had mumps, you should get at least one dose of the vaccine as soon as possible. Similarly, its time to get the vaccine if you were born after 1956 and have not yet had mumps. After having the vaccine, the body takes two weeks to develop immunity against the mumps virus.

While most people experience no side effects after the MMR vaccine there are a small percentage of cases that suffer from a serious allergic reaction. MMR has also been linked with a higher incidence of autism in children. If you suffer from cancer, any blood disorder or autoimmune disease, the vaccine should be avoided. Before having the vaccine, it is important to discuss the possible pros and cons in detail.

If you are planning to travel to an area that is affected by a mumps epidemic or are pregnant, take the necessary steps to reduce your chances of an infection such as washing your hands frequently, staying away from people with coughs and colds, and not sharing your food or drinks with others.