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Symptoms of Meningitis In Children


Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, a protective layer that covers the spinal cord and brain. The inflammation is linked to an infection of the cerebral spinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain. There are several factors that are linked to meningitis, including cancer, injury, viruses, bacteria and specific types of drugs. Below, you will discover more information about the symptoms of meningitis in children.

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is an infection that can cause death within the first few hours of onset of symptoms. However, with proper treatment, rest and medical care, children can recover, but the risk of permanent disabilities is extremely high. Hearing loss, learning disabilities and brain damage are commonly associated with the infection.

Bacteria Linked To Meningitis

The Symptoms of Meningitis In Children

There are several forms of bacteria that are linked to meningitis, including group B Streptococcus, Haemophilus influenza, Streptococcus pneumonia, Neisseria meningitidis and Listeria monocytogenes. Between 2003 and 2007, bacterial meningitis was linked to 500 deaths and 4,100 new cases in the United States. It is important to not that the cause of bacterial meningitis varies, depending on the age group. The body’s natural response to the infection is known as sepsis, which causes death, tissue damage and organ failure.

Causes of Bacterial Meningitis

Meningitis in newborns has been linked to all the bacteria listed above except for Neisseria meningitides. Neisseria meningitides, haemophilus influenza type b, streptococcus pneumonia and group B Streptococcus cause meningitis in babies and children. Babies are the highest risk for bacterial meningitis, but everyone is at risk. Babies should be kept out of community settings, because infectious diseases are known to spread more quickly in areas were large numbers of people gather.

Children, with compromised immune systems, undergone surgical procedures and have been diagnosed specific types of medical conditions have an increased risk for meningitis. These children should not be taken into large crowds, because they are not fully protected from the disease.

Symptoms Of Bacterial Meningitis In Babies

Babies and newborns will exhibit different meningitis systems than other age groups. Teenagers and adults will exhibit sudden onset of headache, stiff neck and fever, with the potential of nausea, vomiting, altered mental status or confusion and photophobia (sensitivity to light).

The common meningitis symptoms may be absent in babies and newborns. In fact, many babies infected with bacterial meningitis will behave in the same manner as a baby with an ear infection. However, babies will not pull on their ears, but they may be irritable, inactive, feed poorly and vomit. One of the first things the paediatrician will look for, when examining a baby for meningitis is a bulging fontanelle, the soft spot on the newborn’s head. The infant may also exhibit abnormal reflexes.

The onset of symptoms for bacterial meningitis will appear suddenly or over a few days. According to research, the symptoms will develop within three to seven days after the initial exposure.

Bacterial Meningitis Treatment

Treating bacterial meningitis will require hospitalization, with IV antibiotics. The physician will determine which antibiotic will be more effective in treating the disease, depending on the lab test results.

Viral Meningitis

The most common form of the disease is viral meningitis, which is most often not as severe as bacterial meningitis. In fact, a healthy person can recover from the disease without treatment, but everyone should seek medical care, because some forms meningitis can be life threatening. Infants and senior citizens with a compromised immune system are at a higher risk of severe illness, even from this form meningitis.

Causes Of Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis cases in the United States are more often linked to non-polio enteroviruses than any other virus. This virus will run rampant during the fall and late spring, so it will be in your best interest to not expose your baby or newborn to large groups of people. However, not everyone that gets infected with enteroviruses will develop meningitis, but immunocompromised individuals and children under the age of five will be at a higher risk.

Viruses that have been linked to meningitis include:

  • Measles virus
  • Mumps virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Arboviruses

Symptoms Linked To Viral Meningitis In Babies

Viral meningitis symptoms are similar in both babies and adults, but some symptoms are much harder to detect in babies. Irritability, fever, poor eating, lethargy, inability to sleep or sleepiness is the common symptoms in babies. As you can see, these symptoms are not as severe as the symptoms linked to bacterial meningitis.

Viral meningitis will most often not cause permanent disabilities, like bacterial meningitis and it is not associated with sepsis, which is a very serious illness. If your infant exhibits any of the above symptoms, you should immediately seek medical care for the child. The physician will order a serious of lab tests to rule out viral meningitis.

Viral Meningitis Treatment

Antibiotics are ineffective in treating viral meningitis. Babies, children and senior citizens may need to be hospitalized, with IV fluids. The pediatrician will determine the best treatment for the infant, but the outcome looks very promising for anyone, regardless of age.

Prevention Measurements

There is currently no vaccine available to protect babies, teenagers or adults against non-polio enteroviruses. The best way to protect your young child is to avoid large crowds, because viruses and bacteria linked to meningitis will spread from one person to another very rapidly. Do not expose the child to individuals that are exhibiting meningitis-like symptoms.

  • Routine hand washing
  • Avoid hugging and kissing the baby, when you are feeling unwell
  • Cover your noise and mouth, when coughing and sneezing
  • Utilize disinfectants to clean frequently touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, refrigerator handles and electronics

It is also crucial to vaccinate the child at the appropriate age. Keeping the child vaccinated will protect them from common childhood illnesses, such as chickenpox, mumps, influenza and measles. All of the illnesses can lead to viral meningitis. There are vaccines available to protect the child from three types of bacteria that is linked to bacterial meningitis, including Streptococcus pneumonia, Hib and Neisseria meningitidis.