People with suspected meningitis will usually need to have tests in hospital and may need to stay in hospital for treatment.

Tests in hospital

Several tests may be carried out to confirm the diagnosis and check whether the condition is the result of a viral or bacterial infection.

These tests may include:

  • a physical examination to look for symptoms of meningitis
  • a Blood tests to check for bacteria or viruses
  • a lumbar puncture where a sample of fluid is taken from the spine and checked for bacteria or viruses
  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan to check for any problems with the brain, such as swelling

As bacterial meningitis can be very serious, treatment with antibiotics will usually start before the diagnosis is confirmed and will be stopped later on if tests show the condition is being caused by a virus.

Treatment in hospital

Treatment in hospital isrecommended in all cases of bacterial meningitis, as the condition can cause serious problems and requires close monitoring.

Severe viral meningitis may also be treated in hospital.

Treatments include:

  • antibiotics given directly into a vein
  • fluids given directly into a vein to prevent dehydration
  • oxygen through a face mask if there are any breathing difficulties
  • steroid medication to help reduceany swelling around thebrain, in some cases

People with meningitis may need to stay in hospital for a few days, and in certain cases, treatment may be needed for several weeks.

Even after going home, it may be a while before you feel completely back to normal.

Additionaltreatment and long-term support may also berequired if any complications of meningitis occur, such as hearing loss .

Treatment at home

You'll usually be able to go home from hospital if you or your child has mild meningitisand tests show it's being caused by a viral infection.

Thistype of meningitis will normallyget better on its own without causing any serious problems. Most people feel better within7-10 days.

In the meantime, it can help to:

  • get plenty of rest
  • take painkillers for a headache or general aches
  • take anti-emetic (anti-sickness) medicine forany vomiting

Preventingthe spread of infection

The risk of someone with meningitis spreading the infection to others is generally low. Butif someone is thought to be at high risk of infection, they may be given a dose of antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

Thismay include anyone who hasbeen in prolonged close contact with someone who developed meningitis, such as:

  • people living in the same house
  • pupils sharing a dormitory
  • university studentssharing ahall of residence
  • a boyfriend or girlfriend

People who have only hadbrief contact with someone who developed meningitis won't usually need totake antibiotics.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016