How Do You Spot the Early Signs of Meningitis?

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation to the delicate membranes that normally cover the human brain and also the spinal cord. The inflammation is normally caused by an infection from bacteria or viruses. Meningitis normally strikes suddenly and is deadly. It is therefore very important to be able to discover the telltale signs of the disorder because a Meningitis early alert can save a life. In the UK, about 100,000 people get meningitis every year. However, the mortality rate is quite low.

Types of Meningitis

As mentioned, the inflammation that is known as meningitis can be caused by bacteria and viruses.

  1. Viral meningitis: viral meningitis is less serious than bacterial meningitis. The source of the viral infection can be the sinuses, ears or the respiratory tract. Viruses that cause diarrhea also lead to meningitis sometimes. People that suffer from viral meningitis have a higher chance of surviving without any kind of brain damage.
  2. Fungal meningitis:this is the rarest of the three types of meningitis. It normally infects people that have a weak immune system. This means that fungal meningitis is rare in healthy people.
  3. Bacterial meningitis: this is the most serious and deadly type of meningitis. It is so serious that if not treated, it will kill the patient in a matter of hours. It also leads to permanent brain damage, loss of hearing and damage to other parts of the body.

The Common Symptoms of Meningitis

As mentioned, meningitis results from viruses, fungi or bacteria that affected the body in another infection. Meningitis normally affects children under the age of five and teenagers because their immune system is still vulnerable. Here are the symptoms to look out for in children over the age of two:

  • A sudden high fever
  • A severe headache that isn’t normal or like other types of headache. The headache may be accompanied with nausea and vomiting.
  • Having a stiff neck
  • Disorientation and lack of concentration
  • Skin rash in the case of meningococcal meningitis
  • Seizures and sensitivity to light

For newborns, it is important to note the following meningitis danger signs as soon as they occur and get medical help.

  • A bulge on the baby’s fontanel
  • Irritability, poor feeding and restlessness
  • A high fever and constant crying
  • Having a stiff body and neck.

When newborns have contracted meningitis, they are very hard to comfort and normally cry harder when you attempt to comfort them. You should seek medical attention immediately if any family member is experiencing any of the following symptoms: a severe unrelenting headache, high fever, confusion, vomiting and a stiff neck.

As mentioned, meningitis is a serious infection that kills within hours. It is therefore important to get medical attention as soon as you suspect that anyone close to you may have been infected. It is also important to note that it is a communicable disease and in case of an outbreak, isolating the sick people is one of the best ways to stop the spread. However, if you are able to get medical help early enough, meningitis is treatable.

The Suresign Meningitis Emergency Pack has been developed to improve awareness and help identify the early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. It is now available online from Zoom Health.

Photo: A young child is immunized with meningitis vaccine W-135
Credit: “Talcahuano alcanza más del 96 % de cobe” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by talcahuanofotos

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2014.