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 in permanent damage to the brain or nerves. Cornwall Resus – Paediatric first aid trainers are on hand to deliver some advice….
The first symptoms
are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.
Other signs in babies:
- Tense or bulging soft spot on their head
- Refusing to feed
- Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry
- A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless
- Fever is often absent in babies less than three months of age
If you are seriously worried about a child who is ill, don’t wait for a rash to appear – get medical help. But if they are already ill and get a new rash or spots, use the Tumbler Test:
Press a clear glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If you can see the marks clearly through the glass seek urgent medical help immediately.
Check the entire body. Look out for tiny red or brown pin-prick marks which can change into larger red or purple blotches and blood blisters.
The darker the skin the harder it is to see a septicaemic rash so check lighter areas like the palms of hands and soles of feet or look inside the eyelids and the roof of the mouth.
Remember, a very ill baby or child needs medical help even if there are only a few spots, a rash or no rash at all.
Things to remember:
- Don’t wait for the rash as it doesn’t always appear
- Not everyone gets all of these symptoms
- Symptoms can appear in any order
- Septicemia (sepsis) can occur with or without meningitis.
- Your know your child best; check on them often, trust your instincts and act fast
- Ensure your baby or child is up to date with their vaccinations
- Some types of Meningitis are more common in young adults- If you have older children starting university for the first time they should have the MenACWY vaccine from their GP ideally 2 weeks before starting university, not only does it protect them but it helps stop the spread to others.
What should I do if I am worried about someone who is ill?
Trust your instincts. Someone who has meningitis or septicaemia could become seriously ill very quickly. Get medical help immediately if you are worried.
Information taken from NHS Choices and meningitis.org please visit these websites for a wealth of information on meningitis.