What is Meningitis?


MeningitissymptomsMeningitis is an infection and swelling of the meninges. The meninges are layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord. Most cases occur in children under five years, but the disease can strike at any age. The extremely young and old are at highest risk for long term brain damage. Bacteria, a virus, protozoa, yeast, or fungus can cause meningitis. The disease may begin with a respiratory illness or sore throat. Meningitis can progress very rapidly. The symptoms include:
  • Neck and back rigidity.
  • Delirium and convulsions.
  • An elevated temperature.
  • Light sensitivity and
  • A moderate to severe headache.

In infants, the fontanel may bulge, and the child may have a continuous shrill cry. To reduce the fever and pain, give a non–aspirin medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Seek immediate medical care for these symptoms. Diagnosis will require a lumbar puncture. This is drawing fluid from the spinal column with a needle. The fluid is sent to a laboratory and analyzed. The cause and treatment for the meningitis can then be determined. Meningitis is a very serious illness and requires hospitalization. Antibiotics have reduced mortality and the incidence of complications such as brain damage and paralysis.

The causes of meningitis depend upon the age and medical condition of a person. A major cause of meningitis in children is Haemophilus Influenzae type B (HIB). Vaccination at 2, 4 and 6 months of age are recommended to prevent this type of meningitis. Causes of Meningitis Bacteria or virus (incubation period depends on infectious agent, usually 10–14 days). Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis
  • Bacterial (spinal meningitis) Cold or flu symptoms, child increasingly ill, high fever, increasing lethargy, drowsiness, vomiting, stiff neck or legs, bulging fontanel, looks sick.
  • Viral Baby usually does not rapidly become sicker.

If you suspect that the child is getting quickly worse, more drowsy, doesn’t want to move, is having difficulty breaking fever, difficult to arouse then call the doctor immediately.