What is parotid gland swelling?

Parotitis: Overview

Parotitis is a swelling of your parotid glands. These are salivary glands located between the ear and jaw. The most common cause is a virus, such as mumps, herpes, or Epstein-Barr. Bacterial infections, diabetes, tumors or stones in the saliva glands, and tooth problems also may cause parotitis.

What are the symptoms of parotitis?

Parotitis symptoms often depend on the cause. Common symptoms include a fever and painful swollen glands on one or both sides of your face. You may have pain while chewing, a dry mouth, or trouble opening your mouth. Acute parotitis often causes very tender parotid glands. Chronic parotitis causes less pain.

How is parotitis treated?

Treatment of parotitis often includes massage, heat, or sucking on lemon-flavored candy. Other treatments depend on the cause of parotitis. If it's an infection caused by a bacteria, it may be treated with an antibiotic.

Sometimes parotitis is caused by another condition, such as an immune system problem or diabetes. In that case, treatment is focused on managing that condition and treating the symptoms.

If other treatments don't work, you may need a stone removed. Or you may need surgery to remove the parotid gland. This is called parotidectomy.

How can you care for yourself when you have parotitis?

Here are some ways to take care of yourself:

  • Use an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Use heat on the swollen jaw for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the heat and your skin.
  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Eat soft foods that don't have to be chewed much.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you think that your medicine is causing a dry mouth, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may change the type or dose of the medicine. Medicines that cause dry mouth include antihistamines, some antidepressants, and some bladder medicines.
  • If you have a dry mouth, ask your doctor about using a saliva substitute.

To prevent tooth problems

  • Brush and floss every day, and get regular dental checkups.
  • If you smoke or use spit tobacco, try to quit. If you can't quit, cut back as much as you can. Tobacco use can interfere with healing. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

What is parotitis?

Parotitis is a swelling of your parotid glands. These are salivary glands located between the ear and jaw. Causes can include viral and bacterial infections. It can also be caused by certain health conditions, a tumor, or salivary gland stones. Parotitis can be acute (happen suddenly) or chronic (lasting weeks to months).

Parotitis: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You have new pain, or the pain gets worse.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not feel better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.