Meninges (coverings of the brain)
How common is it
Meningitis remains a rare illness despite much publicity. In our practice we make about 50,000 consultations a year and see about 1 case of meningitis. However we know how much parents worry about meningitis and hope this information keeps you better informed.
Who is at risk
Anyone can get meningitis at any age, but it is more common in babies, young children and teenagers. Meningococcal is the commonest form of meningitis, it is often associated with septicaemia (blood poisoning). If treated at an early stage full recovery almost always occurs, however delay can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
Classically a rash is present in meningitis though it can occur without, it ranges from spots like insect bites to large blotchy bruises. The rash tends to progress quickly and often the surrounding skin is pale and clammy. The rash tends not to fade if pressed with a glass unlike most viral rashes.
What symptoms should parents look out for?
Symptoms are often vague at first similar to flu with fever, shivering, loss of appetite, sometimes a runny nose, vomiting or diarrhoea.
In babies look out for:-
- A high pitched moaning cry
- The child being difficult to wake
- Refusing feeds or vomiting
- Pale or blotchy skin
- The rash described above
In older children and young adults look out for:-
- Stiffness in the neck; can the person kiss his or her knee or touch the forehead on the knees?
- Drowsiness or confusion
- A severe headache
- A dislike of bright light
- The rash described above
What to do if you suspect meningitis
Contact the surgery immediately during surgery hours. If the surgery is closed telephone Derbyshire Health United on 0844 412 2239, or go straight to hospital.
What to do if you are not sure if you need a doctor
If you remain concerned that someone may be suffering early symptoms of meningitis then telephone NHS Direct on 0845 4647 and get advice about what to do.
What to do if in contact with meningitis
If you have been in contact with meningitis you may need medication to limit the spread of infection in the community. Medication does not prevent the person in contact developing infection!
Household contacts i.e. people who have slept or lived in the same household as the case during 1 week prior to symptoms emerging, also girlfriend/boyfriend kissing contacts and childminders looking after the case in a household setting i.e. close prolonged contact with the case should contact the practice or the Health Protection Agency.
For more information contact:-
National Meningitis Trust 24 hour helpline on 0345 538118
Meningitis Research Foundation 24 hour helpline on 080 8800 3344