My brother had the mumps when we were young. His cheeks looked like a squirrel with a mouthful of nuts. I lucked out and never got the mumps. It didn’t stop me from teasing my brother though.  Some of my friends have asked me questions about mumps, since there is an outbreak of the disease in Washington and I’m a nurse.

Communicable diseases on the average last 7-14 days, yet each one has a different incubation period. Mumps is 18 days. The person with mumps is still contagious until the glands go down. Mumps causes fever, headache, and swollen, painful glands under the jaw. Mumps can also cause a mild inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord called meningitis in about 1 out of 10 people. Before there was a mumps vaccine, many children had hearing loss caused by the disease. Teenagers and adults who catch mumps are often much sicker than children. About 1 out of 4 male adults or male teenagers with mumps, develop a painful swelling of the testicles. This usually doesn’t make the person unable to father children.

One MMR shot protects against measles, mumps, and rubella if the vaccine is given at the correct age. Usually a child gets the first MMR at 15 months of age. If there is an outbreak of the disease, sometimes the shot is given at 12 months of age. A second MMR is recommended when a child enters school for the first time. Some doctors also recommend an updated MMR when the child enters middle school. For those adults born in the 1960’s and before, it is highly recommended to get an updated MMR vaccination because the vaccines used back then, aren’t as strong as today’s vaccines.

What are the risks of these vaccines? Most people will not have any problems. Others might experience a sore or red arm that lasts 1-2 days. Some children might develop a mild rash or a fever. A rarity is a little swelling of the lymph glands for a couple of days.

When should the vaccines be delayed? Inform the nurse or doctor if the person getting the vaccine is sick, has an allergy to eggs, has had a serious reaction to neomycin, is pregnant, has received gamma globulin during the past 3 months, is on prednisone, or is taking cancer treatments or drugs.

The benefits of the vaccines are far greater than the risks. Are you up to date?


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