Sialadenitis (Also Known as Parotitis)

What is sialadenitis?

Saliva is produced by three pairs of major salivary glands as well as many minor salivary glands. The glands continually release saliva—a teaspoon every five minutes—into salivary ducts which route it to the mouth. There, saliva moistens food to help with chewing and swallowing. Saliva cleanses the mouth by washing away bacteria and food particles. It also carries enzymes that begin the digestion process.

Sialadenitis of the parotid gland, also known as parotitis, is a viral or bacterial infection that causes the salivary glands to swell. Sometimes, other viral infections in your child's body, such as mumps, cause the salivary gland infection. Other times the infection comes from the bacteria that enter through your child's mouth.

What are the symptoms?

  • Facial swelling, particularly in front of the ears, below the jaw, or on the floor of the mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Pain, especially when eating
  • Fever
  • Problems opening the mouth
  • Older children may report a funny or foul taste in the mouth

How is it treated?

In most cases, sialadenitis is mild and goes away on its own. If the infection is chronic (recurring frequently) or emergent (a severe infection causing problems with breathing or swallowing) the infected gland may need to be removed. There are several surgical techniques for removing infected salivary glands. One less invasive option is called sialendoscopy, which involves reaching the salivary gland through a tube inserted into the mouth. If this type of surgery is appropriate for your child's circumstances, it can reduce pain and recovery times for your child. Children's helped pioneer this surgery and was the first hospital in North America to perform a sialendoscopy.

About surgery for sialadenitis at Children's

The ENT surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. This multidisciplinary team provides some of the most cutting-edge, delicate treatments available, including newborn surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Otolaryngology surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul, and Children's West.

If you are a family member looking for a Children's ENT specialist, visit Find a Doctor.

If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Referral at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

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