What is mumps?
Mumps is a contagious illness caused by a virus. Before mumps vaccine was given as part of routine childhood vaccinations, it was a common illness in Australia.
Most people recover from mumps in 1 to 2 weeks.
Most people who have been vaccinated or who have had mumps in the past have life-long immunity.
What are the symptoms of mumps?
Around 1 in every 3 people who are infected with the mumps virus don't feel sick at all.
Those who do get sick may have some of the following symptoms:
- muscle aches
- loss of appetite
This is followed by the most recognisable sign of mumps — large swollen salivary glands. This may be on one or both sides of your face.
Check your symptoms with the healthdirect symptom checker tool.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
How is mumps spread?
Mumps is spread by respiratory droplets that travel through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The virus can also spread through touching items that an infected person has touched, such as:
Mumps can also be spread through direct contact with saliva (spit) or urine (wee).
It can take 14 to 18 days to get sick after being exposed to someone with mumps.
If you have mumps, you are contagious from about 2 days before getting sick — although in some cases this can be as much as 7 days. You remain contagious until around 9 days after you first noticed the symptoms.
When should I see my doctor?
If you think you might have mumps, it's important to see your doctor.
Be sure to call ahead and let the receptionist know of your concerns. This lets staff protect other people in the waiting room.
How can mumps affect my pregnancy?
Mumps and my unborn baby
Having mumps in pregnancy is not linked to an increased risk of congenital anomalies (birth differences) for your baby.
How is mumps treated?
There is no specific treatment for mumps.
Paracetamol can help with pain from your swollen glands and to lower your fever. Paracetamol can be taken during pregnancy according to the information on the pack.
If your glands are sore, try applying a cold compress. This may provide some relief from the discomfort.
It may be uncomfortable to eat when you have swollen glands but try to keep drinking water. Purees and soft foods may be easier for you to swallow than solid foods.
How can I prevent mumps?
Mumps can be prevented by vaccination. However, vaccination during pregnancy is not advised.
The mumps vaccine is provided as a combined vaccination, either as:
- measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV)
These vaccines are live attenuated vaccines. There are concerns that if they're given during pregnancy, they may affect the health of your baby.
How can I stop the spread of mumps?
If you have been diagnosed with mumps, there are things you can do to help stop its spread.
You can use standard hygiene practices like:
- washing your hands often — especially after using the toilet, helping someone in the toilet or changing a nappy
- not sharing food and drink
- coughing and sneezing into your elbows
- throwing used tissues directly into the bin
You also need to keep away from any place where you could infect others. It's best to stay home from work and don't pick up children from school or day care.
It's important to remember that not everyone with mumps has symptoms, and even people without symptoms can spread mumps.
I'm planning a pregnancy — what can I do to avoid mumps?
If you are planning a pregnancy, find out when and how to get vaccinated against mumps. You can speak to your doctor or contact the National Immunisation Information Line on 1800 671 811 for more information.
Your doctor will arrange a blood test if your vaccination or infection history isn't known. This will show if you have immunity against mumps.
If you are vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, you should not get pregnant for at least 28 days.
It's safe to have the MMR vaccine after your baby is born, even if you are breastfeeding.
Resources and support
If you have any questions or concerns about the mumps during pregnancy, speak to your doctor.
Find out how babies and children can catch measles, how to treat your child at home, and when to have them vaccinated.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: June 2023