It’s late at night, your child is miserable, lethargic and has spiked a bad fever. You’re torn, should you wake everyone up and seek medical help? Should you wait it out? Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of meningitis could help you make the best decision in this moment and potentially save your child’s life.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord that is commonly caused by an infection. Meningitis can be a life-threatening illness so urgent medical treatment is needed.
How do I know if my child has meningitis?
Babies with meningitis may have the following symptoms:
- Refusing to eat
- Being difficult to wake
- Skin rash or bruising
- High moaning cry
- Pale or blotchy skin
Older children may experience:
- Neck stiffness and joint pains
- Drowsiness and confusion
- Skin rash or bruising
- Discomfort looking at bright lights (photophobia)
The glass test every parent should know about
People with septicaemia may develop a rash of tiny ‘pinpricks’ which can develop into purple bruising. This rash does not ‘blanch’ (fade to white when pressed on) so you can potentially identify the rash using the glass test.
- Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
- The spots or rash may fade at first
- Keep checking
- Fever with spots or a rash that does not fade under pressure is a medical emergency
- Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately
- If the rash does fade but other signs of meningitis are present, or if there are other major medical concerns, you should still seek immediate medical care. The rash itself is not the definitive test for meningitis and may fade or be absent altogether, even in confirmed cases of meningitis.
- On dark skin, the spots/rash can be more difficult to see.
What is the difference between meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia?
According to Meningitis Now, Meningococcal bacteria can affect the body in several ways:
- Meningitis is caused when bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel to the meninges, where they multiply and cause inflammation
- Septicaemia is caused when bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply rapidly. They release toxins that poison the blood. If the bacteria do not reach the meninges, meningitis does not occur
- Commonly, the bacteria will multiply in both the meninges and the bloodstream, causing meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia to occur
What causes meningitis?
Meningitis is caused by a virus, bacteria or a fungus. It’s important to establish what caused the illness so that it can be treated properly. Meningitis is spread when someone with the illness coughs or sneezes.
Is meningitis serious?
Bacterial meningitis is generally more serious than viral meningitis, which is often caused by another illness such as enteroviruses, coxsackieviruses , mumps viruses or adenoviruses. Bacterial meningitis can cause permanent disabilities in up to 20 per cent of children who get it. Bacterial meningitis can also cause death.
How do I treat meningitis?
Treatment for bacterial meningitis may involve hospitalisation, antibiotics, and other medications such as anticonvulsants, cortisone, and sedatives which may be used to treat complications.
Treatment for viral meningitis is similar to the treatment for any viral illness. Make sure that your child gets lots of rest and fluids. Keep her warm and use paracetamol for discomfort and fever. Viral meningitis cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Should I call the doctor?
Always call the doctor if you suspect that your child has meningitis. The earlier your child receives treatment for bacterial meningitis, the better the outcome.
What you need to know about meningitis
- Meningitis is a serious illness that can cause serious complications and even death.
- Bacterial meningitis is more serious than viral meningitis.
- Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics.
- Viral meningitis is treated the same way you treat any virus.
- There are vaccinations available for some forms of meningitis.
This article was republished with permission from Kidspot