Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral infection, but it can also be the result of a bacterial or fungal infection. Depending on the type of infection, meningitis can be treated easily or can be life threatening.
Part 1 of 3: Recognize the symptoms in adults and children
Step 1. Watch for severe headaches
Headaches caused by inflammation of the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, may feel different from other headaches. They are much more serious than the normal headaches you might experience from dehydration or a migraine. People with meningitis often have severe and persistent headaches.
- A headache caused by meningitis will not subside after taking over-the-counter pain relievers.
- If you have a severe headache without seeing other common symptoms of meningitis, it could be caused by another disease. If the headache persists for more than 24 hours, see your doctor.
Step 2. Observe the onset of vomiting and nausea associated with the headache
Migraines often lead to vomiting and nausea, so these symptoms do not necessarily indicate meningitis. However, it is important to watch for other symptoms closely if you or the person you are caring for feels sick enough to want to vomit.
Step 3. Check for fever
A high fever, in addition to other symptoms, could indicate the presence of meningitis rather than the flu or tonsillitis. Take the person's temperature to see if they have a high fever.
The fever associated with meningitis should be around 38.3 ° C, any fever above 39.4 ° C should be of concern to you
Step 4. Determine if the affected person's neck is stiff and painful
It is a common symptom in people with meningitis. Stiffness and pain are caused by the pressure exerted by the inflamed meninges. If you or someone else has neck pain that doesn't seem like it's caused by another cause, such as after stretching a muscle or after having a whiplash, meningitis could be the culprit..
If symptoms appear, have that person lie on their back and bend their body at the hips. This movement should cause pain in the neck. It is the sign of meningitis
Step 5. Observe difficulty concentrating
Since the membrane around the brain swells from meningitis, patients with meningitis often have cognitive difficulties. The inability to finish reading an article, concentrate on the conversation, or complete a task, coupled with severe headaches, should be a wake-up call.
- This person might not behave as usual and may appear more lethargic and listless.
- In rare cases, this person might be barely awake or in a comatose state.
Step 6. Observe the appearance of photophobia
Photophobia is severe pain caused by light. Eye pain and eye tenderness are symptoms associated with meningitis in adults. If you or someone else has trouble getting out or being in a room with bright lights, see a doctor.
This might manifest itself at first through a general sensitivity or a fear of bright lights. Watch for this behavior if other symptoms appear at the same time
Step 7. Observe the appearance of seizures
Seizures are uncontrollable, often violent, muscle movements that often cause loss of bladder control and general disorientation. The person with a seizure might not know what year they are, where they are or how old they are right after the seizure ends.
- If that person has epilepsy or has had seizures in the past, this may not be a symptom of meningitis.
- If you come across someone having a seizure, call 112. Put her aside and move any objects she could injure herself against. Most seizures stop on their own after a minute or two.
Step 8. Observe the presence of warning irritation
Some types of meningitis, for example meningococcal disease, can cause irritation. These irritations are reddish or purple and cover the body with spots, which could indicate sepsis. If you observe these irritations, you can determine if they are caused by meningitis by doing the glass test:
- Press a glass against the irritation. Use clear glass so you can see the skin inside.
- If the skin inside the glass does not turn white, this indicates sepsis. Go to the hospital immediately.
- Be aware that not all types of meningitis are accompanied by irritation. The absence of irritation should not suggest that the person concerned does not have meningitis.
Part 2 of 3: watch for signs of meningitis in infants
Step 1. Become aware of the difficulties of diagnosis
Diagnosis of meningitis in children, especially young children, is difficult even for experienced pediatricians. Since many mild, self-limiting viral syndromes present with similar symptoms, with fever and a crying child, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of meningitis in young children and infants. This leads hospitals and doctors to suspect a case of meningitis, especially in infants under three months of age who have not yet been vaccinated.
With the administration of the correct vaccines, the number of cases of bacterial meningitis has been greatly reduced. Viral meningitis still appears, but cases are mild and self-limiting, little care is needed
Step 2. Check for high fever
Infants, like adults and children, develop a high fever caused by meningitis. Check your baby's temperature to see if he has a fever. Whether or not meningitis is the cause, you should take your baby to the doctor if he has a fever.
Step 3. Watch for continued crying
They can be caused by many illnesses or other problems, but if the baby looks upset and you cannot calm him down by changing him, feeding him or doing other things. that usually calm him down, you should contact your doctor. Along with other symptoms, continuous crying can be a sign of meningitis.
- Usually, it is not possible to calm crying caused by meningitis. Notice how it differs from your baby's normal way of crying.
- Some parents report that hugging their babies becomes even more irritable if they have meningitis.
- Meningitis could cause babies to cry more sharply.
Step 4. Observe a lethargic state or inactivity
A listless, drowsy, irritable baby who is generally active could have meningitis. Look for obvious differences in his behavior that indicate a lower state of consciousness and an inability to fully wake up.
Step 5. Observe weaker feedings as you breastfeed
Babies with meningitis are less able to suckle properly while breastfeeding. If your baby has difficulty breastfeeding while breastfeeding, call the doctor immediately.
Step 6. Observe changes in your baby's neck and body
If your baby seems to have trouble moving his head, and his body looks unusually stiff and tense, this could be a sign of meningitis.
- The child will also feel pain in the neck and back. It might just be stiffness in the muscles at first, but if the child starts to feel pain when moving, their case might be more serious. Watch the child to see if he automatically pulls his legs back to his chest when you bend his neck or if he feels pain when you bend his legs.
- The infant may also not be able to straighten her legs if her hips are turned 90 degrees. This symptom is most often seen in infants when you change their diapers and cannot bend their legs.
Part 3 of 3: Understanding the Different Types of Meningitis
Step 1. Learn about viral meningitis
Viral meningitis is usually self-limiting and goes away on its own. There are certain viruses like the herpes virus and HIV that require special therapy with antiviral drugs. Viral meningitis spreads from person to person by contact. A group of viruses called enteroviruses are the main source and usually appear in late summer or early fall.
Even though viruses are spread by contact, outbreaks of viral meningitis are rather rare
Step 2. Learn about "pneumococcus"
There are three types of bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis, which is the most disturbing and deadly type. Pneumococcus is the form that most commonly infects infants, young children, and adults in developed countries. However, there is a vaccine against this bacterium, it is possible to treat it. It is usually spread during a sinus or ear infection and should be taken into account when someone with sinusitis or ear infection develops symptoms of meningitis.
Some people are at higher risk, for example people who have had their spleen removed or the elderly. Vaccination for these people at risk is the rule
Step 3. Learn about meningococcus (neisseria meningitidis)
Meningococcus is also a bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis to develop. It is a highly contagious form that affects healthy adolescents and young adults. It is spread by contact and epidemics break out in schools and dormitories. It is particularly fatal and leads to failure of many organs, brain damage and death if you do not treat it quickly by taking intravenous antibiotics.
- It also causes "petechiae", a skin irritation that looks like little red dots. This is a distinctive trait to observe.
- Vaccination is recommended for all adolescents between 11 and 12 years old, with a booster shot at 16 years old. If no vaccine has been given to the patient before the age of 16, one vaccine is sufficient.
Step 4. Learn about haemophilus influenza
The third bacteria that causes bacterial meningitis is haemophilus influenza. This bacterium in the past caused many cases of bacterial meningitis in infants and children. However, since the vaccine was introduced, cases have dropped dramatically. Because of immigrants coming from countries where the vaccine is not administered and parents struggling with the vaccination of their children, not everyone is protected against this bacteria.
It is important to provide the doctor with a complete vaccination history when he suspects a case of meningitis
Step 5. Learn About Fungal Meningitis
Fungal meningitis is a rare condition that only seems to affect people with AIDS or diseases that affect the immune system. This disorder is one of the pathologies that make it possible to diagnose AIDS, because the patient has almost no immune system, he is very fragile, or takes the risk of catching any infection. In general, the cryptococcus is responsible for this infection.
The best prevention for AIDS patients is to take antiretroviral therapy to decrease the viral population and increase the number of white blood cells to protect them from this kind of infection
Step 6. Get a meningitis vaccine if needed
It is recommended that the following groups be vaccinated at higher risk of meningitis:
- children between 11 and 18 years old
- the troops
- people who have spleen problems or have had their spleen removed
- boarding school residents
- microbiologists exposed to meningococcal bacteria
- people with immune system disorders
- people traveling to areas with an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis
- people exposed to meningitis during an epidemic