Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia are serious, life threatening illnesses.
Meningitis is the swelling of the meninges, which is the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by certain kinds of bacteria entering the body.
Septicaemia is blood poisoning caused by the same bacteria that cause meningitis.
Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours, and leave some survivors with life altering after effects, which may be as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness and hearing loss.
Signs and symptoms of meningitis:
Anyone can get meningitis, but babies and young children under five years of age are most at risk.
The symptoms of meningitis can include:
- a fever, with cold hands and feet
- drowsiness and difficulty waking up
- confusion and irritability
- severe muscle pain
- pale, blotchy skin, and a distinctive rash (although not everyone will have this)
- a severe headache
- stiff neck
- sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- convulsion or seizures
Other symptoms in babies can be:
- Unusual grunting sounds
- Tense or bulging soft spot on their head
- Refusing to feed
- Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry
- A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless
- Fever (Note: this is often absent in babies less than three months of age)
The above symptoms can appear in any order, and some may not appear at all.
There are vaccines available that protect against some of the most common causes of meningitis and septicaemia. These vaccines have successfully reduced the number of cases throughout the world.
We encourage everyone to take up the offer of the vaccines that are included in the routine immunisation schedule to protect themselves and their families.
However, there are not yet vaccines available to prevent all causes of meningitis and septicaemia.
That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. Early recognition and treatment provide the best chance of a good recovery.
Trust your instincts. Someone who has meningitis or septicaemia could become seriously ill very quickly. Get medical help immediately if you suspect meningitis or septicaemia.
For more information about the vaccines available to prevent meningitis and septicaemia and the symptoms to look out for, visit www.meningitis.org or call the free helpline on 080 8800 3344.