Parotitis is inflammation in one or both of the parotid glands. These are 2 large salivary glands that are inside each cheek over the jaw in front of each ear.

Parotitis can be:

  • Acute—inflammation that resolves in a short period of time with or without treatment
  • Chronic—includes persistent inflammation or alternating periods of flare-ups and remission
  • Parotid Gland

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    An inflamed parotid gland has several causes. These vary depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic. The most common causes include:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Mumps
  • Other viral infections
  • Blockage of saliva flow
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Risk Factors

    This condition is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of parotitis include:

  • Dehydration and/or malnutrition
  • Recent surgery
  • Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer
  • Medical conditions, such as:     
  • HIV infection
  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Blocked saliva flow, resulting from:    
  • Salivary stone in the parotid gland
  • Mucus plug in a salivary duct
  • Tumor—usually benign
  • Psychiatric conditions, such as depression or eating disorders
  • Use of certain medications
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Symptoms

    Acute parotitis may cause:

  • Sudden facial pain and swelling that worsens with salivation or after eating
  • Redness and tenderness
  • Pus that may drain into the mouth
  • Chronic parotitis may cause:

  • Swelling around the parotid gland
  • Dry mouth
  • Milky secretions
  • Strange or foul taste in your mouth
  • Fever, chills, and other signs of infection
  • Chronic parotitis can destroy the salivary glands.


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to make a diagnosis. Tests may include a blood test and a fluid sample from the parotid gland.

    Imaging tests evaluate the parotid gland and surrounding structures. These may include:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Sialography to evaluate the ducts in and around the parotid gland
  • Treatment

    Treatment depends on what is causing the parotitis. Options may include:

    Good Oral Hygiene

    Flossing and thorough tooth brushing at least twice per day may help with healing. Warm salt-water rinses can help keep the mouth moist. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways you can quit.


    Medications may include:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections (antibiotics are not effective for viral infections)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage inflammation and pain
  • Blockage Removal

    Your doctor may need to remove a stone, tumor, or other blockage. Increasing saliva flow may be all that is needed to remove a mucus plug.


    To help reduce your chances of parotitis:

  • Get prompt treatment for any infections.
  • See your dentist for proper oral care as recommended.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  • Receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination if you have not yet been vaccinated