Spotting the signs of Meningitis

The symptoms to look out for - at every age if you think your baby or child may have meningitis and septicaemia.

Spotting the signs of meningitis

Although meningitis is a rare disease, it can be serious and life-threatening illness – and is sometimes very difficult to diagnose. Doctors recommend that parents trust their gut instincts if they suspect meningitis and septicaemia, and familiarise themselves with the symptoms to watch out for at different ages.

  • What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is the swelling of the meninges, which is the lining around the brain and spinal cord, caused mainly by germs entering the body. Septicaemia is blood poisoning caused by the same germs that can cause meningitis.

  • What causes meningitis and septicaemia?

Bacteria, viruses and fungi can cause meningitis and septicaemia if they invade the body.

Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours – know the symptoms.

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. Septicaemia can occur with or without meningitis. Not everyone gets all the symptoms and they can appear in any order.

Spotting the signs of meningitis: Newborns and older babies

  • High temperature or shivering
  • Over tiredness and vacant expression
  • Diarrhoea
  • Blotchy, pale or blueish tinge to skin
  • Pin prick rash or purple bruising
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Tense or bulging soft spot
  • Restlessness or irritability that could be caused by joint pain
  • Stiff, jerky movements or floppy limbs when picked up

Spotting the signs of meningitis: Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers

  • Feverishness
  • Vomiting
  • Severe Headache
  • Confusion/deliriousness
  • Rash anywhere on the body
  • Stiff neck
  • Aversion to bright lights
  • Seizures

>> Always seek medical assistance if you are unsure and for more information and up-to-date advice please visit the Meningitis Research Foundation