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Meningitis - Signs & Symptoms

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    Re: Meningitis - Signs & Symptoms

    NHS UK

    Symptoms of meningitis

    Meningitis is a very serious illness but, if treated quickly, most children make a full recovery. Our symptom alert helps you to recognise the signs and includes a printable checklist


    A fever is where you have a body temperature that is higher than usual. In general, in both adults and children, this is taken to be a temperature of 38?C (100.4?F) or over.

    Other signs of fever include:
    • your face is hot to touch
    • you look red or flushed
    Bacterial or viral meningitis?

    It is only possible to distinguish between bacterial and viral meningitis by carrying out clinical tests. It is not possible to tell the difference from the symptoms alone.
    Therefore, every case of suspected meningitis should be treated as a medical emergency

    Meningitis should be treated as a medical emergency because bacterial meningitis can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can be fatal.

    Bacterial meningitis

    Bacterial meningitis is the more serious form of the condition. The symptoms usually begin suddenly and rapidly get worse. If you suspect a case of bacterial meningitis, you should phone 999 immediately to request an ambulance.

    There are some early warning signs that you may notice before the other symptoms appear.

    Early warning signs

    Bacterial meningitis has a number of early warning signs that can occur earlier than the other symptoms. These are:
    • pain in the muscles, joints or limbs, such as in the legs or hands
    • unusually cold hands and feet, or shivering
    • pale or blotchy skin and blue lips
    The presence of a high temperature (fever) plus any of the above symptoms should be taken very seriously. Phone 999 immediately to request an ambulance.

    Early symptoms

    The early symptoms of bacterial meningitis are similar to those of many other conditions, and include:
    • a severe headache
    • fever (see box, left)
    • nausea (feeling sick)
    • vomiting (being sick)
    • feeling generally unwell
    Later symptoms

    As the condition gets worse it may cause:
    • drowsiness
    • confusion
    • seizures or fits
    • being unable to tolerate bright lights (photophobia) ? this is less common in young children
    • a stiff neck ? also less common in young children
    • a rapid breathing rate
    • a blotchy red rash that does not fade or change colour when you place a glass against it ? the rash is not always present
    Babies and young children

    The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are different in babies and young children. Possible symptoms include:
    • becoming floppy and unresponsive, or stiff with jerky movements
    • becoming irritable and not wanting to be held
    • unusual crying
    • vomiting and refusing feeds
    • pale and blotchy skin
    • loss of appetite
    • staring expression
    • very sleepy with a reluctance to wake up
    Some babies will develop a swelling in the soft part of their head (fontanelle).

    Viral meningitis

    Most people with viral meningitis will have mild flu-like symptoms, such as:
    • headaches
    • fever (see box to the left)
    • generally not feeling very well
    In more severe cases of viral meningitis symptoms may include:
    • neck stiffness
    • muscle or joint pain
    • nausea (feeling sick)
    • vomiting (being sick)
    • diarrhoea (passing loose, watery stools)
    • photophobia (sensitivity to light)
    Unlike bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis does not usually lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning).

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  • Pathfinder
    started a topic Meningitis - Signs & Symptoms

    Meningitis - Signs & Symptoms

    CDC Meningitis

    Signs & Symptoms

    On This Page

    Espa?ol: Signos y s?ntomas

    Meningitis infection is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
    • Altered mental status
    Bacterial Meningitis


    This is the more dangerous and deadly of illnesses caused by Neisseria meningitidis. When Neisseria meningitidis bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, they damage the walls of the blood vessels and cause bleeding into the skin and organs.

    Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, cold chills, severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest or abdomen, rapid breathing, diarrhea ? and, in the later stages, a puerperal rash or a petechial rash.

    Meningococcemia is very serious and can be fatal. In fatal cases, deaths can occur in as little as a few hours. In non-fatal cases, permanent disabilities can include amputations or severe scarring as a result of skin grafts.

    The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure.
    Infants younger than one month old are at a higher risk for severe infection. In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. In young children, doctors may also look at the child?s reflexes, which can also be a sign of meningitis.

    Although the early symptoms of viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis may be similar, later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very severe (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, if you think you or someone else may have meningitis, see a physician as soon as possible.

    Viral Meningitis

    Viral meningitis is an infection of the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord) that is caused by a virus. Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, appear most often during the summer and fall in temperate climates.

    Viral meningitis can affect babies, children, and adults. It is usually less severe than bacterial meningitis and normally clears up without specific treatment. The symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to those for bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal. Because of this, it is important to see a healthcare provider right away if you think you or your child might have meningitis.

    Symptoms of viral meningitis in adults may differ from those in children:

    Common symptoms in infants
    • Fever
    • Irritability
    • Poor eating
    • Hard to awaken
    Common symptoms in adults
    • High fever
    • Severe headache
    • Stiff neck
    • Sensitivity to bright light
    • Sleepiness or trouble waking up
    • Nausea, vomiting
    • Lack of appetite
    The symptoms of viral meningitis usually last from 7 to 10 days, and people with normal immune systems usually recover completely.

    Fungal Meningitis

    Symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to symptoms of other forms of meningitis; however, they often appear more gradually. In addition to typical meningitis symptoms, like headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck, people with fungal meningitis may also experience:
    • Dislike of bright lights
    • Changes in mental status, confusion
    • Hallucinations
    • Personality changes
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