Epidemic parotitis also known as mumps is highly contagious viral disease caused by paramixovirus. The disease causes swelling of parotid glands (salivary glands) and in some cases swelling of testicles. Swelling can be unilateral or bilateral. It mainly affects children and young adults. Epidemic parotitis although benign in nature in children it can cause complication such as meningitis and orchitis in adults. The disease spreads from one person to another through respiratory droplets.
Symptoms develop two weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms generally last for 7 to 10 days after onset of the disease. The hallmark symptom is swelling of parotid gland that leads to pain on both the sides of face in front of the ear. Fever, headache, malaise are associated symptoms. Today the incidence of epidemic outbreak of mumps has diminished due to effective vaccination called MMR vaccine.
Once the disease has occurred it runs its course as there is no specific treatment.
What Causes Epidemic Parotitis?
Traditionally epidemic parotitis is considered as childhood disease caused by paramixo group of virus. However, it sometimes can also occur in young adults. Since centuries mumps used to occur in epidemics because it is highly contagious and easy to spread. Transmission of the virus from the infected person to another healthy individual occurs mainly through droplets released in the air while coughing, sneezing or through direct contact.
Humans are the only host for mumps virus. The virus is single stranded RNA virus. After the virus enters into the body, it multiples and spreads in many parts of the body including salivary glands, pancreas, testis, and meninges in the brain. Mumps usually occurs between the ages 5 and 9 years, but the virus can infect adults too.
Primarily epidemic parotitis affects salivary glands in front of ear. Epidemic of a disease occurs when large number of people becomes susceptible to a disease, usually a viral disease. However, with advent of MMR vaccine epidemics of parotitis have markedly declined. The main cause of epidemic parotitis is failure to take mumps vaccination in children.
Symptoms Of Epidemic Parotitis
As mentioned earlier epidemic parotitis usually occurs in children. Once a person becomes infected with mumps virus, the symptoms become apparent 10 to 14 days after exposure. Initially the symptoms appear similar to those of flu. For first 1 or 2 days person experiences low grade fever, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, loss of appetite and fatigue.
After this patient develops swelling in the parotid glands that are located in front of ear. Their function is to produce saliva. The glands become inflamed and painful. A visible swelling occurs in front of the ear on both the sides. The parotid glands become palpable and tender. Patient experiences difficulty in chewing, swallowing and opening his mouth because of pain and swelling. Patient may also suffer from earache and purulent discharge from ear.
During the first two days after exposure and 5 days after appearance of swelling, the person is highly contagious. Approximately after one week fever and swelling subside and if there are no complications the patient recovers completely.
Complications are less in children and they are more common in adults suffering from viral parotitis. Neurological complications are the most serious ones. Meningoencephelitis is the most serious because it can cause paralysis, seizures, and cranial nerve palsies. Epidemic parotitis was one of the major complications for deafness in children before vaccination era. The deafness can be sudden and in both the ears. Orchitis (swelling of testis) is another complication in boys over the age of 10 years.
Natural Remedies For Epidemic Parotitis
Epidemic parotitis or mumps is a mild and self limiting viral disease. There is no specific treatment for mumps. Epidemic outbreaks have declined over last few decades because many countries have implemented childhood immunization program. Treatment is mainly supportive and symptomatic. Anti inflammatory and antipyretic medicines are given to relieve fever and pain.
In majority of cases the disease resolves in one week with full recovery. Besides the conventional treatment, there are several home care measures that will help to reduce pain and swelling and promote faster recovery.
- Apply alternate warm and cold packs on the swollen parotid gland.
- Apply paste prepared from dried and powdered chebulic myrobalan fruit over the inflamed parotid gland in front of the ear. This herb is effective in reducing swelling and pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Sacred fig leaves are time tested home remedy to relieve discomfort and pain produced in mumps. Clean two leaves of sacred leaves. Warm them and apply a layer of olive oil. Place the leaves on each side of the face over the swollen area. Sacred fig has antiviral properties that help to recover faster.
- Person must drink more fluids and electrolyte to prevent dehydration.
- As the patient is not able to completely open his mouth due to pain, he must eat soft diet.
- During the period of illness person must stay at home as mumps is an infectious disease. He must cover his mouth with handkerchief or a cloth while sneezing and coughing to prevent the droplet spread. Person should avoid sharing utensils and drinks until the disease has subsided.
- Person should eat healthy diet to boost his immunity.