Mumps - Treatment

There is no treatment for mumps. All that can be done is to allow the disease to run its course. However, steps can be taken to make the patient more comfortable. For example, acetaminophen (pronounced uh-see-tuh-MIN-uh-fuhn,

The greatest mumps epidemic in modern times occurred in 1941. There were about 250 cases of the disease for every 100,000 Americans. (Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos)
The greatest mumps epidemic in modern times occurred in 1941. There were about 250 cases of the disease for every 100,000 Americans. (Reproduced by permission of
AP/Wide World Photos

trade name Tylenol), or ibuprofen (pronounced i-byoo-PRO-fuhn, trade name Advil) can help relieve the pain due to swelling, headache, and fever. Aspirin should never be given to children who have mumps. Aspirin has been found to cause Reye's syndrome (see Reye's syndrome entry), a potentially fatal disease.

Because of difficulty swallowing, the most important challenge is to keep the patient fed and hydrated (given liquids). He or she should be provided with a soft diet, consisting of cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, broth-based soups, prepared baby foods, or foods put through a home food processor. Fruit juices should be avoided because they can irritate the salivary glands. Patients also should not be given dairy products because they may be difficult to digest.

In the event of complications, a doctor should be contacted at once. For example, there are treatments that can relieve the discomfort of swelling of the scrotum.

Alternative Treatment

Some patients find that acupressure (a Chinese therapy that involves applying pressure to certain points in the body) can help relieve the pain of swollen glands. They use their middle fingers to press gently on the area between the jawbone and the ear for two minutes while breathing deeply.

Until the 1940s, research on viruses progressed very slowly. A major problem was that no one knew how to grow viruses in the laboratory. By contrast, bacteria were easy to grow. Sometimes, all that was needed was to keep food open to the air. Bacteria grew quickly on the food.

An important breakthrough came when scientists discovered that viruses will grow in live chick embryos. Live chick embryos are easy to find—just crack open a fertilized egg! The problem was that bacteria also like to grow in chick embryos. By the 1940s, that problem could be solved as well. Simply adding an antibiotic to the chick embryo killed the bacteria, but had no effect on the viruses.

Much of the work done on growing viruses was conducted by American bacteriologist John F. Enders (1897–1985) and his colleagues at Children's Hospital in Boston. With the technique they developed, Enders and his colleagues were able to grow the viruses that cause mumps, measles, poliomyelitis, chickenpox, and other diseases. They eventually developed vaccines for mumps and measles. Other researchers later used the same techniques to develop a vaccine for poliomyelitis.

A number of homeopathic remedies have been recommended for various symptoms of mumps. These include belladonna for swelling and redness; wild hops for lack of energy, irritability, and thirst; and poke root for swollen glands. Homeopathic remedies that do not have an effect on the patient should not be continued.

Several herbal remedies may be useful in helping the body recover from a mumps infection or helping to relieve the discomfort of the disease. These herbs include echinacea (pronounced ek-i-NAY-see-uh), cleavers, calendula (pronounced KUH-len-juh-luh), and poke root. Poke root can be toxic, so it should be used only under the close supervision of a trained practitioner.

Some herbal remedies are applied as packs placed directly on the swollen glands. These packs may be dipped in a solution of vinegar and cayenne or a solution made from cleavers or calendula mixed with vinegar and heated.

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