|Meningitis means inflammation of the meninges or membranes which envelop the brain and spinal cord and protect their surfaces from contact with the skull and the bones of the spine.|
The two main forms of meningitis are viral and bacterial.
Viral or aseptic meningitis is usually followed by a complete recovery generally in a matter of days. It can last for one or two weeks. It may follow an attack of mumps in the young child, can be associated with a viral gastroenteritis or an attack of glandular fever. In the new born baby and young infant there may be symptoms of lethargy and poor feeding without any signs to localise the problem to the head or neck.
In older children and adults symptoms can begin suddenly with vomiting, headache, lethargy and neck stiffness.
A generalised rash may be present. The diagnosis is made by examination of spinal fluids obtained by a lumbar puncture and blood tests may help to confirm the diagnosis. There is no specific treatment although fever in young children may produce convulsions so the temperature should be kept under control.
Bed rest in the acute stage of symptoms will be necessary under medical supervision. Recovery is generally complete in the majority of cases and hospitalisation will only be necessary if a patient is extremely sick or if the diagnosis is in doubt.
The second form of meningitis is termed bacterial or septic meningitis. Most sufferers are under the age of 3 and symptoms may be difficult to interpret. The onset of symptoms may be acute or gradual and may include fever, headache, irritability, vomiting and neck stiffness. A purple red skin rash may be present. In the very young baby and there may be bulging of the skin above the forehead where the bones of the scalp have not yet completely joined. This is due to increased pressure inside the skull.
Pus-forming meningitis may be caused by germs spreading from other areas of infection such as the throat, the ears and the sinuses. It may follow a fracture of the skull.
Diagnosis is made by examination of spinal fluid (Lumbar Puncture) and by blood tests.
Antibiotics are used to treat this form of meningitis. Hospitalisation is usually necessary. In the more serious cases life saving support systems might be also needed.
Radiological scanning may be necessary to eliminate rare brain complications such as brain abscess and obstructive hydrocephalus. Heart studies may be necessary to check on a rare cause.
A small portion of children with meningitis develop hearing defects so hearing tests should be done routinely.
Complications also can include behavioural disorders, mental retardation and vision defects. Close contacts may also be at risk where particular bacteria have caused meningitis and living conditions are crowded. A meningitis vaccine (see Childhood Immunisations) is available should your doctor consider it necessary.
|Aspirin and Young Children (Reyes Syndrome).||Autism.|
|Bed Wetting or Nocturnal Enuresis.||Breast or Bottle Feeding.|
|Chicken Pox (Varicella).||Childhood Immunization/Vaccination|
|Convulsions in Childhood.||Croup.|
|Cystic Fibrosis (CF).||Deafness in Childhood.|
|Diarrhoea and Vomiting.||Downs Syndrome.|
|Dyslexia.||Fever in Infants.|
|German Measles (Rubella).||Heart Murmurs|
|Heat Exhaustion in Children.||Hyperactivity in Childhood.|
|Nappy Rash.||Normal Development (Baby Care).|
|Speech Development in Children||Spina Bifida.|
|Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Cot Death.||Teething.|
|Your Baby Won't Sleep.||Whooping Cough (Pertussis)|
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