Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges).

It can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly. It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result inpermanent damage to the brainor nerves.

A number of vaccinations are available that offersome protection against meningitis.

This page covers:

Symptoms of meningitis

When to get medical help

How meningitis is spread

Vaccinations against meningitis

Treatments for meningitis

Outlook for meningitis

Symptoms of meningitis

Symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and can include:

  • a high temperature (fever) over37.5C (99.5F)
  • being sick
  • a headache
  • ablotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass isrolled over it (this won't always develop)
  • a stiff neck
  • adislike of bright lights
  • drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • seizures (fits)

These symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear.

Bacterial meningitis is rarer but more serious than viral meningitis.

Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • kissing
  • sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes

Meningitis isusually caught from people who carry these viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat but aren't ill themselves.

It can also be caught from someone with meningitis, but this is less common.

Treatments include:

  • antibiotics given directly into a vein
  • fluids given directly into a vein
  • oxygen through a face mask

Viral meningitis tends to get better on its own within 7 to 10 days and can often be treated at home. Gettingplenty of rest and taking painkillers and anti-sickness medication can help relieve the symptoms in the meantime.

These can include:

  • hearing loss or vision loss , which may be partial or total
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • recurrent seizures (epilepsy)
  • co-ordination, movementand balanceproblems
  • loss of limbs amputation ofaffected limbs is sometimes necessary

Overall, it's estimated that up to 1 in every 10 cases of bacterial meningitis is fatal.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Nov 2016