The most common mumps symptoms are fever, sore throat, and chills. However, not everyone who is infected with the mumps virus develops associated symptoms. Of all the symptoms, swollen salivary glands is probably the most recognizable, but this only happens in about half of all cases. Symptoms of mumps can lead to serious complications, such as deafness, pancreatitis, and meningitis.
An Overview of Mumps Symptoms
When a person becomes infected with the mumps virus, it begins to multiply within the nose, throat, and lymph glands in the neck. After 16 to 18 days, on average, mumps symptoms can appear. This period between infection and the start of symptoms is called the "incubation period for mumps." This period can be as short as 12 days or as long as 25 days.
About 20 percent of people infected with the mumps virus do not develop mumps symptoms. It is also thought that up to half of people infected with the virus do not develop the classic symptoms, instead developing upper respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold.
Early Symptoms of Mumps
If mumps symptoms do occur, early symptoms can include:
- Muscle and body aches
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
These early symptoms may or may not occur prior to the beginning of salivary gland swelling, the characteristic symptom of the disease.
Salivary Gland Swelling and Other Mumps Symptoms
In many cases, swelling of the salivary glands is the first symptom of mumps (see Pictures of Mumps). The parotid salivary glands (which are located within your cheek, near your jawline, and below your ears) are most frequently affected. Swelling of the parotid gland is a condition known as parotitis.
This swelling gradually gets worse over one to three days, with the swelling fading after about one week. The swelling can extend from the ear to the chin, and often pushes the ear up. The glands may be painful and tender to touch.
In about two-thirds of cases, the salivary gland swelling is on both sides of the face. The swelling on the other side usually begins after the first side is fading, or about four to five days after mumps symptoms begin.
This swelling of the salivary gland can cause difficulty eating, swallowing, and talking.