What is it?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is most commonly caused by a virus, but can also be bacterial. Most at risk for the disease are children under five, teens and young adults, as well as anyone whose immune system is already compromised. The symptoms of meningitis are a fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, aversion to bright light, drowsiness, distress on handling, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. A baby may have a tense or bulging fontanelle, and be reluctant to feed.
What to do
There is a vaccine against certain types of meningitis, which the government recommends be given to all babies from 6 weeks. If you suspect meningitis, contact your doctor immediately. There is no cure for viral meningitis, but it usually passes fairly quickly. Treatment is with paracetamol to control pain and fever. Bacterial meningitis is more serious and may require hospitalisation. It is treated with anti-biotics.