Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

How Do You Catch the Mumps?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: I would like to know how you can contract the mumps. Is it the same way as you catch a cold or flu?

A: Mumps is caused by a virus, and it is passed on in the same way as a cold, meaning that it is in the mucous and saliva that come from the nose and mouth. Infection with the mumps virus causes swelling and inflammation of the parotid gland, which is a large salivary gland located right in front of and below the ear. It usually causes swelling on both sides at once, though sometimes it can be on just one side, and some people can have the infection without any swelling at all. Sometimes it can involve other salivary glands besides the parotid gland. Very often there is fever, headache and muscle aches that occur shortly before the swelling starts.

Once a person is exposed to the mumps virus, it is usually about two weeks before the person has symptoms. Once the swelling starts, mumps is contagious for as long as nine days. It is usually a very mild disease, and doesn't require any treatment. Rarely, there can be complications from mumps, including neurological problems, and inflammation of the testes in men.

Infections with mumps occur most commonly in the late winter or spring, but it is rare to see it at all nowadays, since most children are immunized against it in infancy. (The MMR vaccine that children get stands for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. It is given at 12 to 15 months of age, and again at four to six years of age.) There are other viruses, as well as bacteria, that can cause swelling of the parotid gland, and these are different from the mumps virus. It is very uncommon to see mumps in the United States.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks