Meningitis is an infection of the tissues and fluid that surround the brain and spinal cord. When bacteria cause the infection, it is called bacterial meningitis.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious, life-threatening illness. Even with treatment, some types of meningitis can cause brain damage, resulting in problems ranging from deafness to paralysis. Your child may recover without any problems if the infection is found and treated early.
Another name for this infection is spinal meningitis.
Bacteria can spread to the brain and spinal cord:
The symptoms of meningitis can come on very fast (over a few hours) or more slowly (over a few days). The symptoms may include:
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. Your provider will examine your child.
Tests may include:
Your child will stay in the hospital for treatment. Treatment must begin right away. Your child will be given antibiotics for 1 to 3 weeks. Your child may need to keep taking antibiotics after going home from the hospital.
When your child comes home, follow the treatment plan prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Be sure your child finishes all medicines exactly as prescribed. Keep all follow-up appointments.
The bacteria causing the meningitis can be passed from person to person. A child can be contagious for 2 days to 2 weeks, depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection. Some things you can do to help prevent spread of the infection include:
Ask your healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
Three childhood immunizations help prevent meningitis. These shots are:
Check with your healthcare provider to see if your child or others in your family are up to date with their shots or if they need more shots.