Meningitis is an infection that occurs as the result of an inflammation of the cerebrospinal fluid and membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Meningitis most commonly arises because of an infection caused by a virus or a bacteria. Symptoms of meningitis in its bacterial form can appear suddenly, while the viral form may take a few days to a week to develop. It can affect both adults and children, even young babies. Because it can, in certain circumstances, be deadly, it is important to know the symptoms of meningitis.
The most well-known symptoms of meningitis are a high fever, a severe headache, and a stiff or sore neck. Unfortunately, it can mimic the flu; so, it is important to pay attention to the lesser symptoms of meningitis, as well. If any of the symptoms are alarming, always consult a doctor.
Other symptoms may be less indicative of meningitis. They include confusion or problems concentrating, vomiting or nausea, seizures, extreme sleepiness, and sometimes a skin rash. There may also be sensitivity to light. In many cases, the affected person will not show any interest in eating or drinking.
Some symptoms of meningitis may appear very early on, although they do not necessarily indicate that the person is affected. These early signs include leg pain and cold feet and hands. In addition, the person may have an unusually pale tone to her skin.
As mentioned above, newborn babies can also contract meningitis. They may not have the traditional symptoms of meningitis; consequently, parents and caregivers must look out for other signs. For example, a baby who does not normally cry may suddenly cry constantly and be inconsolable; she may sleep excessively; or, be extremely irritable. Sometimes a baby may feed poorly and not maintain any form of eye contact. Other times, a parent may be able to recognize stiffness in the neck of the baby or a bulge in the fontanel, or soft spot, on the top of the head.
Treating the symptoms of meningitis immediately is important. If a child conducts bacterial meningitis, he could have permanent brain damage or die in a few days time. Doctors will treat bacterial meningitis with antibiotics, fluids, and corticosteroids to decrease the inflammation. Depending on the symptoms of meningitis, other forms of treatment may be used – such as an anticonvulsant to handle seizures. Viral meningitis will be treated with fluids and pain medication, as needed.