Mumps: Minimizing Your Risk Factor
Mumps are making a comeback this season. Are you prepared? In light of recent reports of mumps outbreaks on college campuses, it’s imperative to learn the facts about this highly infectious virus, which causes painfully inflamed glands and swelling. While anyone can get mumps, college students are particularly vulnerable to the virus, which can easily and rapidly spread in crowded environments. If you’re attending college, or living in close quarters, how can you best protect yourself? Ravi Chekka, MD, a pediatrician with Eastside Medical Center, a clinical practice of LECOM, offers advice for staying one step ahead of a viral infection this season.
Spotting the Signs
Due to the mildness of symptoms, approximately half of those who contract mumps are unaware. How can you tell if you or someone close to you is infected? According to Dr. Chekka, symptoms typically appear within 16-18 days, and sometimes 12-25 days after infection, and start with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Usually within 48 hours of these symptoms, swelling of the parotid gland(s) develops and tends to cause pain in front of and below the ears; the swelling can occur on one side or both sides and often causes pain when moving the jaw, especially when chewing food. In adult males, the most common complication of mumps is swelling of the testicles. “Fortunately, most patients who develop these complications recover fully, but occasionally the infection can lead to significant problems in males, like sterility,” Dr. Chekka cautions. How contagious is this virus? “Highly,” Dr. Chekka adds. “Once you have mumps, you are considered contagious for five to seven days after the initial onset of symptoms. The virus can be spread rather easily through sharing liquids or utensils, kissing, coughing, or sneezing. At the first sign of symptoms, you should consult a physician for a proper diagnosis. Seeking medical attention during the early stages could help speed your recovery and prevent an outbreak.”
A Shot at Prevention
Because mumps can be spread easily, especially in close quarters, how can you reduce your risk? “The mumps vaccine is your best defense,” Dr. Chekka says. “The best way to reduce your risk factor is the vaccine, which can be given in the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine -- commonly referred to as the MMR vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all college students be given two doses of the MMR vaccine.” Two doses will prevent approximately 90 percent of mumps cases. “Receiving the vaccine is not a 100 percent guarantee against getting the mumps, but it is your best shot at protecting yourself,” he adds.
“Mumps symptoms tend to generally resolve after 10 days,” Dr. Chekka explains. “While there is no specific medication to cure mumps, your physician can provide treatment options to decrease symptoms.”
To help manage symptoms, Dr. Chekka suggests:
- Eating soft, bland foods that require minimal chewing, including oatmeal, bananas, pasta, potatoes, eggs, gelatin, cooked vegetables, applesauce, and tender cooked meats.
- Avoiding tart drinks and sour foods, such as orange juice, salad dressings, and pickles, since they tend to irritate the swelling.
- Applying to the cheeks heat or cold packs to alleviate pain.
- Using over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever and pain.
- Getting extra rest and staying hydrated with plenty of fluids, such as water, milk, and popsicles.
“These recommendations can help relieve symptoms and start you on the path to a quicker recovery,” says Dr. Chekka.
Staying healthy on and off campus
“While the vaccination is important, getting enough rest and staying hydrated are also very important,” Dr. Chekka says. “In addition, avoid self-medicating and utilize your campus health center or seek the advice of your physician if you’re unusually sick. Taking the right precautions early can help you and others maintain good health on and off campus.”
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care that osteopathic and allopathic physicians provide. DOs and MDs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery, and are trained to consider the health of the whole person.
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