Updated December 2023

Mumps is a viral infection of the glands that produce saliva (salivary glands) that can cause painful swelling in the cheeks and jaw.

Though mumps infection is rare in Canada, infants, school-aged children, and young adults are at higher risk. Most adults born before 1970 likely got mumps when they were younger and are probably immune.

The mumps virus is most often found in saliva and respiratory droplets. It is spread from person to person through:

  • Close contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person, such as from coughing, sneezing or talking.
  • Coming into contact with the saliva of an infected person. For example, by sharing food or drinks, or by kissing.
  • Coming into direct contact with objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with the saliva or respiratory droplets of an infected person.

People can spread mumps to others about seven days before or up to five days after they develop swollen cheeks and jaw.

Mumps symptoms begin 12 to 25 days after exposure. Common symptoms include:

  • Swelling and pain in one or both sides of the cheeks, jaw and neck (most common symptom)
  • Trouble talking, chewing or swallowing
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms can last up to 10 days. They can be mild, cold-like symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms at all.

In rare cases, people can get severe symptoms or complications. This can include inflammation or swelling of the: testicles (which may decrease fertility), ovaries or pancreas; meningitis (swelling of the brain) or deafness (loss of hearing).

Getting vaccinated against mumps is safe and the best way to protect yourself and your child(ren) against the disease and getting very sick. The mumps vaccine is part of Ontario’s publicly funded routine immunization schedule.

There are two different vaccines that can prevent mumps. The MMR vaccine or MMRV vaccine, which protect against measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella (chickenpox) (MMRV). Two doses are given routinely in childhood.

Recommended vaccines for children:

  • At 12 months of age, one dose of MMR vaccine is given.
  • At four to six years of age, the second dose of vaccine is usually given in the combined MMR and Varicella (MMRV) vaccine.

Recommended vaccines for adults:

  • Adults born in 1970 or later are recommended to get two doses of a mumps-containing vaccine. They may have only gotten one dose of a mumps-containing vaccine in childhood and should get a second vaccine (usually MMR), especially if they are a post-secondary student or health care worker.
  • People born before 1970 are assumed to be immune to mumps through natural infection.
  • If there is an outbreak of mumps infection, public health may recommend an additional dose of MMR vaccine.

If you are unsure if you got the vaccine(s), check your immunization record, or contact your health care provider. If you got the vaccine at school in Toronto, Toronto Public Health may have your vaccine record on file. Call Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 for more information.

If you or your child(ren) have or think you may have a mumps infection, stay home and isolate. For five days after the start of symptoms, stay home from work, school, and childcare, do not participate in group activities, and avoid visitors if possible.

Anyone who has mumps, thinks they have mumps, or has been in close contact with someone with a mumps infection, should also avoid sharing food, drinks, or objects that you put in your mouth such as smoking and vaping products or musical instruments, and avoid activities such as kissing.

If you or your child(ren) are in close contact with someone with a mumps infection, watch for any signs and symptoms of mumps for 25 days after your last contact with that person. Getting the mumps vaccine after being exposed to the virus will not prevent getting the mumps infection, but can provide protection against getting an infection in the future.

Call a health care provider, or Health811 to connect to a registered nurse for free if you or your child(ren) have symptoms of a mumps infection, or if you or your child(ren) have been in contact with someone who has mumps.

Before visiting a clinic, tell them that you think you or your child(ren) have mumps. This will allow the doctor and staff to prepare for your visit and protect themselves and other patients.

Mumps is diagnosed with a blood test, or a urine test and swab from the cheek and throat.

There is no treatment for mumps. A virus causes mumps, so antibiotics will not treat the infection. Some medications can be given to relieve some of the symptoms.

  • Talk to your health care provider or Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.
  • Call 811 to connect to a registered nurse day or night for free, secure and confidential health advice.