American Osteopathic Association

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Mumps: Minimizing Your Risk Factor

Male college student with mumpsMumps are making a comeback this season. Are you prepared? With recent reports of mumps outbreaks on college campuses, it’s imperative now more than ever to learn the facts about this highly infectious virus, which causes painfully inflamed glands and swelling. While anyone can get it, college students in close quarters are particularly vulnerable to the virus, which can spread easily and rapidly in crowded environments. If you’re attending college or preparing for a semester on campus, what safeguards can you take to help protect yourself? Stanley E. Grogg, DO, an osteopathic pediatrician from Tulsa, Oklahoma, provides information and tips to help you stay one step ahead of a viral infection this season. 

Spotting the Signs

Due to the mildness of symptoms, reports have shown that approximately half of the people who contracted mumps were not aware they were infected. So how can you tell if you or someone close to you is experiencing symptoms? According to Dr. Grogg, symptoms typically appear 16-18 days, sometimes 12-25 days after infection, and start with a few days of headache, muscle aches, a low-grade fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Usually within 48 hours of these symptoms, swelling of the parotid gland(s) develops and tends to cause pain in front of and below the ears; the swelling can occur on one side or both sides and often causes pain when moving the jaw, especially when chewing food. And, in adult males, the most common complication of mumps is swelling of the testicles. “Fortunately, most patients who develop these complications recover fully,” says Dr. Grogg.

How contagious is this virus? “Highly,” says Dr. Grogg. “Once a person has mumps, he or she is considered contagious for five to seven days after the onset of initial symptoms, and they can spread the virus rather easily through sharing liquids or eating utensils, kissing, or coughing or sneezing. At the first sign of symptoms, consult a physician for a proper diagnosis,” advises Dr. Grogg. “Seeking medical attention during the early stages could help speed up your recovery and prevent an outbreak.”

If you don't currently have a physician, consider Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs. They look beyond symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect their patients' wellbeing. They listen and partner with them to help them get healthy and stay well.

A Shot at Prevention

Mumps is an easy illness to give and get, especially when you are in close quarters. So how can you reduce your risk? “The mumps vaccine is your best defense,” says Dr. Grogg. “The best way to reduce your risk factor is immunization with the mumps vaccine, which can be given in the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine commonly referred to as the MMR vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all college students obtain two doses of the MMR vaccine, as two doses prevent approximately 90% of mumps cases,” he adds. “While receiving the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee against ever getting the mumps, it is your best shot at protecting yourself.”

Treatment Options

“Mumps symptoms tend to generally resolve after 10 days,” explains Dr. Grogg. “While there is no specific medication to cure mumps, your physician can provide treatment options to decrease symptoms,” he continues. To help manage symptoms, he suggests that you:

  • Eat soft, bland foods that do not require much chewing. These foods include oatmeal, bananas, pasta, potatoes, eggs, gelatin, cooked vegetables, applesauce and tender cooked meats.

  • Avoid tart drinks and sour foods, such as orange juice, salad dressing, and pickles, since they can irritate the swelling and cause pain.

  • Apply heat or cold packs to the cheeks to relieve pain.

  • Use over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and pain.

  • Get extra rest and stay well hydrated with plenty of fluids such as water, milk and popsicles.

“Following these recommendations can help relieve symptoms and place you on the path to a quicker recovery,” says Dr. Grogg.

Staying Healthy On and Off Campus

“While getting vaccinated is important, getting enough rest and staying hydrated are also important components of staying healthy,” says Dr. Grogg. “Also, avoid self-medicating and utilize your campus health center or seek the advice of your physician if you’re unusually sick,” he advises. “Taking the right precautions early can help you and your classmates maintain good health on and off campus.” 

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