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

The problem can be:

  • Acute—Swelling that gets better in a short period of time with or without treatment
  • Chronic—Causes long term swelling or periods when things are worse and then better
Parotid Gland
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There are many causes. It depends whether the illness is acute or chronic. The most common ones are:

  • Bacterial infection
  • A viral infection, such as mumps
  • Blockage of saliva flow

Risk Factors

This illness is more common in older adults and newborns. Other things that may raise your risk are:

  • Dehydration
  • Recent surgery
  • Medical conditions, such as:
    • Diabetes
    • HIV infection
    • Sjogren syndrome
  • Blocked saliva flow from:
    • Salivary stone in the parotid gland
    • Mucus plug in a salivary duct
    • Tumor—usually harmless
  • Mental health problems, such as depression or eating disorders
  • Use of certain medicines
  • Radiation therapy for head and neck cancer



Acute parotitis may cause:

  • Sudden pain and swelling that worsens with eating
  • Redness
  • Pus that may drain into the mouth

Chronic parotitis may cause:

  • Swelling around the parotid gland
  • Dry mouth
  • Milky discharge in the mouth

Chronic parotitis can destroy the salivary glands.


You will be asked about your symptoms and health 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.

Pictures may be taken of the area. These may be done with:

  • Ultrasound
  • Sialography to evaluate the ducts in and around the parotid gland
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan



Treatment depends on what is causing the parotitis. This may mean:

Good Oral Hygiene

Flossing once a day and brush your teeth at least twice a day to help with healing. Warm salt-water rinses can help keep the mouth moist.


You may be given:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage swelling and pain

Blockage Removal

Increasing saliva flow may be all that is needed to remove a mucus plug or small stone. This may be done by sucking on a sour candy.

If that is not helpful, the doctor may need to remove a stone, tumor, or other blockage with surgery.


Practice good oral hygiene to prevent acute parotitis.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Sialadenitis; Salivary Gland Infection)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 


Health Canada 

Public Health Agency of Canada 


Acute suppurative parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated June 28, 2018. Accessed July 18, 2018.

Cain A. Parotitis. Net Doctor website. Available at: Updated March 10, 2005. Accessed July 18, 2018.

Chitre VV, Premchandra DJ. Review: recurrent parotitis. Arch Dis Child. 1997;77(4):359-363.

Wilson KF, Meier JD, Ward PD. Salivary gland disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2014;9(11):882-888.