Fatigue, headache, loss appetite, body aches, fever, and dry mouth are main mumps symptoms in children.
What is mumps?
Mumps is a contagious disease caused by the mumps virus which is a member of the paramyxovirus family, this is actually a large family of viruses which also includes the measles virus and the parainfluenza viruses, and all of these tend to affect children the most. Mumps only affects humans and is spread by tiny respiratory droplets that are small enough to be carried in short distances in the air. So a mumps virus is extremely contagious and anyone near a person with mumps is at risk for getting the disease as well. The major mumps symptom is swelling of the salivary glands.
A Guide for Mumps Symptoms in Children
Mumps symptoms range from those that feel like the common cold like a headache and neck stiffness as well as more severe symptoms like difficulty with balance and hearing loss, but in general, the infection is self-limited and symptoms go away as the body recovers.
The mumps symptoms start to show after two weeks from when the virus has affected a child. The initial mumps symptoms will usually be the flu-like symptoms which include:
- A headache
- Loss of appetite
- Body aches, usually in neck, pelvis, testis and abdomen
- Dry mouth
A few weeks later, after these common symptoms, one can experience swollen salivary glands, swelling near the neck and swollen lymph nodes. However, you might not see all the swelling in your child at once but he/ she may experience pain and periodic swelling in these areas.
Once you notice mumps symptoms, it is advisable to keep your child out of reach of others, to prevent others from getting infected by the disease, as it is extremely contagious.
Also, while some people may show mumps symptoms, others might not show them at all, it varies from person to person.
The only cause of mumps is the mumps virus and it affects mostly the children below the age of 15 years.
- The mumps virus has a single strand of RNA and a viral polymerase enzyme surrounded by a phospholipid bilayer envelope studded with the viral proteins Hemagglutinin-Neuraminidase (or HN protein) and Fusion (or F protein). The HN protein allows the virus to stick to a potential host cell and cut itself loose if necessary, and the F protein fuses the viral and cell membranes together allowing the mumps virus to enter the cell.
- Once mumps enters a cell the single-stranded RNA, it gets transcribed by the viral polymerase enzyme into a complementary positive sense strand of mRNA, which can then be translated by the host cell ribosomes into new copies of the envelope proteins and the viral polymerase, which get assembled into new viruses.
- What also ends up happening with these though is that those HN + F proteins on the cell surface now bind other cells so they actually end up binding epithelial cells to one another which forms a clump of connected cells called a multinucleated giant cell or a syncytium.
- Mumps enters the body and first infects the epithelial cells of the nasopharynx and starts replicating and causing local damage to the tissue, from where it can cause viremia or a virus in the blood and reach various organs and tissues.
- The mumps virus has tropism or preference for the parotid salivary glands and the most classic finding in mumps is swelling of those parotid salivary glands either on one side or on both sides sometimes.
A person can easily get infected by this disease by following means
- Through contaminated surface, it means by an infected napkin or infected blanket.
- From contact of saliva of the infected person.
- By sharing utensils, such as cups, cutlery or plates with an infected person.
Complications associated with mumps
Once you notice mumps symptoms, it is advisable to meet your doctor as soon as possible, as the complications associated with mumps can be devastating and might end up to a lifetime, if left untreated.
Some of the complications associated with mumps are given below:
- In boys usually in adolescents and young men, mums can infect the testicles in the epididymis and cause orchitis and epididymitis respectively. Most often just on one side, this can end up causing testicular atrophy in some men, as well as a decrease in sperm count and sperm motility, but rarely does this cause infertility.
- The girl child infected with mumps can experience swelling in the ovaries. Although this doesn’t harm the egg but the inflammation can be extremely painful.
- Less commonly mums can infect the kidneys and cause glomerulonephritis which eventually leads to hematuria and proteinuria blood and protein in the urine.
- It can also affect the joints causing arthritis usually in the large joints like the hips, the knees, the ankles, and the shoulders.
- It can also lead to permanent hearing loss as the mumps virus might damage the cochlea, which is the part of the inner ear that helps a person to hear. Though it is extremely rare and happens to one out of two thousand people.
- It can affect the heart causing myocarditis as well as the pancreas causing pancreatitis.
- Although pregnant women with mumps are not at an increased risk of having a baby with congenital defects.
Treatment for mumps
For prevention individuals with mumps, particularly young children are usually kept isolated for five days after the onset of symptoms to prevent it from spreading. For treatment, there aren’t any effective antivirals for mumps. Although, on can take the following measures, once mumps symptoms start to show, and they are:
- Ask your child to take liquid diet like soups, juices, or foods that don’t require a lot of chewing like, mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs.
- You can apply ice packs on the swollen area of your child, to lower the swelling and the pain.
- You can also give painkillers like paracetamol to your child if the pain becomes unbearable.
- Also, let your child take ample of bed rest.
Luckily, there’s a mumps vaccine that’s safe and effective in preventing nearly 90% of cases.
- Best of all for prevention is the mumps vaccine which is about 90% effective at preventing the disease in the first place.
- The vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine which means that it’s a weakened mumps virus which is not infectious but still stimulates the immune system to generate a strong response to prevent a future infection from the actual wild-type mumps virus.
- Mumps vaccine has reduced the occurrence of mumps dramatically with outbreaks happening most often in areas where children aren’t vaccinated.