by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Sialadenitis; Salivary Gland Infection)


Parotitis is swelling in one or both parotid glands. These are 2 large salivary glands that are between each ear and jaw.

The problem can be:

  • Acute—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 causes 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 the risk are:

  • Dehydration
  • Recent surgery
  • Certain health problems, such as:
  • Blocked saliva flow from:
    • Salivary stone in the parotid gland
    • Mucus plug in a salivary duct
    • Tumor
  • 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.


The doctor will ask 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:


The cause of the problem will need to be treated. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as warm water rinses and good oral hygiene
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Antibiotics to treat infection
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs to manage swelling and pain
  • Surgery to remove anything that may be blocking saliva flow


Good oral hygiene may lower the risk of acute parotitis.


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 website. Available at: Accessed October 30, 2020.

Chronic recurrent parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed October 30, 2020.

Hernandez S, Busso C, et al. Parotitis and Sialendoscopy of the Parotid Gland. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2016 Apr;49(2):381-393.

Parotitis. Net Doctor website. Available at: Accessed October 30, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 05/04/2021