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Mumps: Be Sure Your Child Is Fully Immunized

Puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw—that's what many people think when they hear about mumps. This disease used to be common in infants, children, and young adults in the United States. But now, mumps is not very common in this country. That's because the mumps vaccine is widely used.

Most People Fully Recover from Mumps, but It Can be Serious

Mumps typically starts with fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Then, most people will have swelling of their salivary glands. This is what causes the puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw.

Photo: Young girl talking to baby

Protect your child from mumps by vaccinating on time.

Complications from mumps can occur, such as

  • orchitis (swelling of the testicles in males who have reached puberty),
  • meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord),
  • encephalitis (swelling of the brain),
  • oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of breasts) in females who have reached puberty, and
  • loss of hearing.

Adults who get mumps are more likely to have complications.

Anyone Who Is Not Protected Can Get Mumps

Check if your child's vaccine is due:

Mumps is caused by a virus. Infected people can spread mumps when they breathe, cough, and sneeze. They can also spread it by sharing items, such as eating utensils and cups, and touching surfaces that are then touched by others. Anyone who has not had mumps or has not been vaccinated can get the disease.

Each year, about 300 people in the United States are reported to have mumps. However, outbreaks of mumps sometimes occur and more people than usual get the disease. In 2006, there was an outbreak involving many Midwestern states where about 6,500 people were reported to have mumps. Also, from June 2009 through June 2010, an outbreak occurred in the Northeast where more than 3,500 people were reported to have mumps. Although most of these people were vaccinated, other factors, such as crowded settings, played a role in the outbreaks. High vaccine coverage helped to limit the size, duration, and spread of the mumps outbreaks.

Mumps Vaccine Is the Best Way to Prevent Mumps

The mumps vaccine was licensed in the United States in 1967. It is usually given as part of a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The MMR vaccine is strongly endorsed by medical and public health experts as safe and effective. The mumps component of the MMR vaccine is 88% (66 to 95%) effective for two doses.

Children should get two doses of MMR vaccine:

  • the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and
  • the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

Your child's doctor may also offer the MMRV vaccine, which is a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). The MMRV vaccine is licensed for children 12 months through 12 years of age. It may be used in place of MMR vaccine if a child needs chickenpox vaccine in addition to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Your child's doctor can help you decide which vaccine to use.

Paying for Mumps Vaccine

Photo: Mother and baby visiting doctor

If you don't have insurance, or if your plan does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have insurance, or if your plan does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps children, who are eligible, get the vaccines they need. The vaccines are provided at no cost to doctors who serve children who are eligible.

Some Adults Need Mumps Vaccine Too

Anyone born during or after 1957, who has never had mumps or has never been vaccinated, is at risk for mumps. They should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Two doses are recommended for adults at higher risk, such as students in college, trade school, and training programs; international travelers; and healthcare professionals. Learn about how to pay for vaccines.

More Information


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  • Page last reviewed: November 4, 2013
  • Page last updated: November 13, 2013 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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