What is it?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord, usually due to the spread of an infection. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has signs or symptoms of meningitis, seek medical care right away. Early treatment can prevent serious complications.
It's easy to mistake the early signs and symptoms of meningitis for the flu (influenza). Meningitis symptoms may develop over a period of one or two days and typically include:
• A high fever
• Severe headache
• Vomiting or nausea with headache
• Confusion, or difficulty concentrating — in the very young, this may appear as inability to maintain eye contact
• Sleepiness or difficulty waking up
• Stiff neck
• Sensitivity to light
• Lack of interest in drinking and eating
• Skin rash in some cases, such as in viral or meningococcal meningitis
Signs in newborns
Newborns and young infants may not have the classic signs and symptoms of headache and stiff neck. Instead, signs and symptoms of meningitis in this age group may include:
• Constant crying
• Excessive sleepiness or irritability
• Poor feeding
• A bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby's head (fontanel)
• Stiffness in the baby's body and neck
Infants with meningitis may be difficult to comfort, and may even cry harder when picked up.
If you or your child has bacterial meningitis, delaying treatment increases the risk of permanent brain damage. In addition, bacterial meningitis can prove fatal in a matter of days. Seek medical care right away if you or anyone in your family has any signs or symptoms.
A classic symptom of meningitis is a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it, but this doesn't appear in many cases.
The classic rash associated with meningitis usually looks like small, red pinpricks at first.
It then spreads over the body quickly and turns into red or purple blotches.
If you press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin and the rash doesn't fade, it's a sign of blood poisoning (septicaemia) caused by meningitis and you should get medical advice right away.
So Finally: When to Seek Medical Care for Possible Symptoms of Meningitis
If you suspect that your child or someone you know has meningitis, seek medical care right away.
• Call the doctor and describe the signs and symptoms.
• Go immediately to the nearest emergency room if a doctor is not reachable right away. The person who is sick should not drive.