Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid covering the brain and spinal cord.
The disease is usually caused by either a bacteria or a virus, although in a small number of cases a fungal infection is to blame. Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial but is rarely life threatening.
Bacterial meningitis is the more serious form of the disease, proving fatal in 10-20 per cent of cases. The condition can cause serious disability including deafness and brain damage, as well potentially leading to severe complications such as Septicemia (blood poisoning).
The main symptoms of meningitis in children are a stiff neck, sever headache, a feeling of drowsiness and a dislike of bright lights. This will be followed by the tell-tale red rash that doesn't fade when pressed. Take a clear drinking glass and press the side on to the spots. The vast majority of spots and rashes will fade but a meningitis rash remains red. However, it's vital not to wait for this rash to appear before seeking medical attention. With meningitis, every minute really does count.
Unfortunately, unlike children, babies cannot tell you if they have a sore neck or headache. So these early warning signs do not apply. Instead, you should look out for constant crying, severe irritability and unwillingness to eat. Other possible symptoms include a high fever, cold hands and feet, and a pale, blotchy appearance. And of course after a while, the distinctive red rash will usually appear. But remember by this time your baby may be in serious danger.
If you're child displays these symptoms you must take him to your local GP immediately. With bacterial meningitis, the sooner the treatment begins, the better the chance of a full recovery without serious complications.
Bacterial meningitis can be effectively treated with intravenous antibiotics, if the disease is caught in time. Viral meningitis can't be cured with antibiotics, but in most cases it clears up on it's own in a week or so and no medical treatment is required.
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