Meningitis In Children - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Does your child complain of severe headache? Does he have skin rash? Well if you nodded along to these questions, you might want to read this post. Your child may have meningitis! What is meningitis? How does it happen? How do you treat it? Read on to know more about meningitis and how to keep your child safe.

What Is Meningitis?

Like other ‘itis’ conditions, Meningitis is an inflammatory disorder. Meninges are the protective membranes that cover your brain and spinal cord. The membrane surrounds the brain and spinal cord to protect your central nervous system. When the membranes become inflamed, the condition is known as meningitis. This inflammation can damage the protective layer (1).

Meningitis is a potentially fatal condition and it leads to more than three hundred thousand deaths across the world last year. It is not as prevalent as it was a decade ago, but it is a dangerous condition, and you need know about it. It is highly contagious, and spreads through the air and nasal discharge. Meningitis can also spread through fecal contamination.

You may contract meningitis through close contact. It is not as contagious as flu or the common cold, and it can’t spread just by breathing the same air as that of the infected person. However, it is a communicable disease, and you need to be extra careful.

Meningitis In Children:

Meningitis is a dangerous condition that can prove to be fatal. Unfortunately, most cases of meningitis feature children. Your child’s low immunity can make him more susceptible to meningitis. The disease can easily spread through you to your new born baby.

Causes Of Meningitis In Children:

Meningitis is an inflammatory disorder, which bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms trigger. The condition can also occur without the involvement of any bacteria, or aseptic meningitis.

1. Bacterial Causes:

Many kinds of bacteria lead to meningitis. Some include:

The kind of bacteria that cause meningitis differs on a person and his age group. Bacteria that inhabit the vagina (group B streptococci) and the digestive tract (Escherichia coli) can lead to meningitis in premature and newborn babies.

Children who are older usually contract Neisseria meningitides and Streptococcus pneumonia, while a child under five can contract Haemophilus influenza type B.

Adults usually suffer from Neisseria meningitides and Streptococcus pneumonia.

[ Read: Bacterial Infections In Children ]

2. Viral Causes:

Meningitis can also occur due to other microbes like viruses. Typically, the enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus, and varicella-zoster virus lead to viral meningitis in children. Some viruses that cause other immunity problems also lead to meningitis, as a side effect of the disease, which include mumps virus and the HIV.

When a meningitis-inducing bacteria or virus enters the meninges or cerebrospinal fluid, you contract meningitis. It can happen in either of the two ways. The microbes enter the fracture region or a nasal entry. These microbes can also enter your body through the bloodstream. Even though both means are quite common, in infants, the virus usually enters the bloodstream.

Although these symptoms can point to your child having meningitis, the confirmation will depend on the lumbar puncture and CT scan results.

Signs And Symptoms Of Meningitis In Children:

Some of the basic meningitis symptoms in children include:

  • Severe headache
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Sudden high fever
  • Altered mental status
  • Photophobia
  • Skin rash and sores

Are the symptoms of meningitis different for children? Let’s look at some of them below.

  • Constant crying
  • Lost appetite
  • Inactiveness or sluggishness
  • Bulge at the soft spot on top of your baby’s head

Out of these symptoms, the stiff neck and relentless headache usually occur due to meningitis. Other related symptoms like sudden fever, skin rash or photophobia are specific to different types or kinds of the condition.


Like other major diseases, meningitis can lead to many complications. Some related problems and fallouts of meningitis typically include:

  • Sepsis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Abnormally low body temperature
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased risk of blood clotting in the blood vessels
  • Swelling in the brain tissue
  • Decrease in the level of consciousness
  • Abnormal posturing

Diagnosing Meningitis:

So, how do you diagnose meningitis? Well, you opt for a lumbar puncture. It is a slightly difficult process, which people with brain tumors and other related problems should avoid. The process involves collecting and testing blood samples to check for any inflammation. The doctor usually inserts a needle into the spinal cord and tests the culture for the presence of bacteria or viruses.

However, don’t go for this diagnosis unless your pediatrician recommends it as it can cause serious disorders like brain herniation.

Treatment Of Meningitis:

Meningitis is life threatening and not completely curable.

As the causes of meningitis vary, along with the innumerable manifestations of it, there is no specific cure for the disease. Doctors use a mix of antibiotics and steroids to relieve the patient’s symptoms. Your child’s previous medical history and neurological condition also determine the direction and the purpose of the treatment.

The treatment of meningitis for children is almost the same as for adults. The only difference is that children don’t usually consume steroids. You need to get your child to drink lots of fluid and keep an eye on his heartbeat and breathing.


How do you prevent a dreaded disease like meningitis? Are there any steps to counteract the virus? Once your child contracts meningitis, his chances of surviving the disease are quite low. However, you can take certain measures to slow the onset of meningitis, which include:


Most childhood vaccination schemes include meningitis vaccines. Vaccination is a good way of protecting your child against meningitis and mumps. So remember to vaccinate your child to prevent meningitis.

[ Read: Immunization Schedule For Children ]


Short term antibiotics that help control disease can also prevent the spread of meningitis.

We hope you found the information helpful. Tell us about your experiences. If you know of any other home remedies to ease the symptoms of meningitis, share them here. Fellow moms would love to hear from you.

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