Meningitis can affect you and your baby with equal ferocity. It can be termed as the inflammation of the meninges as well as the spinal cord and membranes of the brain. In fact, the bacteria which cause meningitis in babies has been consistent, comprising Group B Streptococcus (GBS), followed then by Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), Listeria Monocytogenes and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Causes Of Meningitis In Babies:
Babies which are infected during the first few years of life may also have features of septicaemia and pneumonia. However, meningitis usually occurs at a later stage. It is usually caused by the following:
- A virus or bacterium that travels through the bloodstream causing an infection.
- Meningitis can also be caused by a fungal infection; however, it is less common.
[ Read: Necrotizing Enterocolitis In Infants ]
Types Of Meningitis:
Meningitis can affect babies below the age of 2 years old as well as older children. Listed are the two main types of meningitis:
- Meningitis that affects babies (around 2-3 months old) is called neonatal meningitis. It should be noted that the virus can be quite serious when it affects babies. If you do not heed the signs and warnings, it can cause deafness, intellectual disability, and even death in babies.
- Bacterial Meningitis mostly affects children above the age of 5 years. It is more common and is milder than meningitis caused by bacteria. It lasts for around 10 days.
Viruses Causing Meningitis:
There are a number of viruses which cause meningitis in baby which are usually from the group called enteroviruses. Some of the common viruses which cause meningitis in children include the following:
- Coxsackie, a virus that cause mouth and hand disease; it usually leads to meningitis in infants.
- Mumps can also cause meningitis.
- Herpes simplex viruses.
[ Read: Tuberculosis In Babies ]
Effects Of Meningitis:
You should be careful because bacterial meningitis can cause the following:
- Difficulty in development
- Loss of speech
- Problems that affect the muscles
- Kidney failure as well as gland failure
How Do Babies Contract Meningitis?
While there is no confirmed explanation of how babies contract meningitis, here are some of the ways they can be exposed to it:
- The organisms which cause the sickness can be found in the throat and mouth of babies.
- Babies with immune systems that function abnormally.
- Sick-cell disease can also cause the sickness.
- Babies with head injuries are also prone to the virus.
- A pregnant mother can be infected with the virus which is then passed on to the child.
[ Read: Hand Foot And Mouth Disease In Infants ]
Symptoms Of Meningitis In Babies:
Signs may differ between two children suffering from meningitis. Also, they may disappear in no particular order. Here are some of the main meningitis symptoms in babies that you should look out for. They are:
- Stiff Neck
- Major headache
- Inability to deal with light or being exposed to it
- Heavy-headed feeling
- Inability to eat or drink as usual
- Rashes on the skin
- Constant crying
- Bulging Fontanel
If you feel that your child has some of the symptoms mentioned on the list, you should take him to the doctor immediately to avoid late diagnosis.
[ Read: Gray Baby Syndrome ]
Diagnosis Of Meningitis:
This condition can only be diagnosed by a qualified doctor; only he will be able to tell how serious the meningitis actually is, before opting for a particular treatment. Here are some of the methods which doctors adopt to diagnose if your child has meningitis or not:
- The doctor may opt to conduct a lumbar puncture, which is also referred to as a spinal tap.
- In some cases, a doctor may order for a CT scan to be conducted before actually going through with the lumbar puncture. This is done to rule out other symptoms and offer a concrete solution.
- Urine and blood samples will also be taken before the actual lumbar puncture is conducted.
Treatment For Viral Meningitis:
In the case of viral meningitis, the immune system of your child should be stronger and able to withstand it without having to actually undergo intensive treatment. Sometimes, treatment is ruled out altogether. However, the virus is still tended to in the following ways:
1. Medication prescribed by the doctor after thoroughly examining the symptoms, especially in the case of a newborn. Medication would be required to lessen the fever.
2. Plenty of rest and relaxation is required in order for your baby to gain his full strength back.
3. Pamper him with whatever he requires to make sure that he is back to full health in no time.
4. Hospitalization may be required under doctor’s orders to observe certain irregularities in health.
[ Read: Croup In Babies ]
Treatment For Bacterial Meningitis:
Children suffering from bacterial meningitis would require hospitalization and aftercare because of the severity of the virus. In order to completely eradicate the bacteria from the immune system, listed below are some of the treatments required:
1. Strong antibiotics will normally be administered to your child in order to purify the bloodstream infected with the bacteria.
2. Hospitalization is a must; your child will be connected to an intravenous drip to replenish lost fluid from his or her body.
Prevention Against Meningitis:
Ensuring that your child adopts a good hygiene regimen will help prevent the bacteria from entering the blood. Here are some ways to avoid meningitis:
- Ensure that your child washes his hands before and after every meal as well as when he returns from the playground. He should also wash his hands after going to the toilet.
- You will need to cover your mouth when coughing to prevent your baby from contracting the virus. Use a tissue or your arm in such cases. Teach your baby the same habits too.
- Make it a point to keep certain contaminated surfaces clean like remote control, toys as well as doorknobs. Use a disinfectant in these cases.
- You should avoid sharing beverages, toothbrushes, utensils and other personal items with your baby to prevent passing on the germs.
- Ensure to keep your house free from rodents that contaminate surfaces as well as food. Use rubber gloves when wiping the surface with disinfectant.
- Try and avoid getting bitten by insects and rodents that transmit certain deadly viruses.
Meningitis in babies can be as harmful if not taken care of properly. Therefore, taking a second opinion from a qualified doctor is always necessary.
We hope that the information shared will help you tackle the deadly meningitis virus or bacteria more effectively. Do share how you manage to prevent your child from contracting the disease.
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