Meningitis is extremely serious. It is an infection that attacks both the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis is particularly concerning as it can develop extremely fast. Two types of meningitis exist: viral and bacterial. The most common type of meningitis is viral meningitis and it is caused due to a viral infection.
Bacterial meningitis is much rarer and is due to a bacterial infection. Bacterial meningitis can lead to blood poisoning and this might show up as a rash consisting of tiny red pinpricks that then develop further into purple blotches. If the rash fails the so-called glass test (which means that the rash does not fade if you roll a glass quite firmly across the affected area), you must call 999 immediately.
However, this rash is not the only sign that your child may have meningitis. If your child has any of the other meningitis symptoms (see the list below), then you need to seek immediate medical assistance.

What are the possible meningitis symptoms in babies/infants?

  • High fever (possibly with cold hands and feet)
  • High pitched moaning or whimpering cry
  • Vomiting and refusing feeds
  • Pale, itchy complexion
  • Blank staring expression
  • Fretfulness
  • Floppiness
  • Dislike of being handled
  • Convulsions
  • Neck retraction with arching of back
  • A tense or a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on your child’s head)
  • Lethargic and difficult to wake

What are the possible meningitis symptoms in older children?

  • A constant and generalised headache
  • High fever (possibly with cold hands and feet)
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Stomach pain, sometimes with diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Neck stiffness where a chin to the chest movement causes pain at the back of your child’s neck
  • Rapid breathing
  • A rash consisting of bruises or red or purple spots that does not fade when you press a finger on them or a glass tumbler (the glass test). However, this symptom may be absent in the early stages of meningitis
  • Sensitivity to bright lights, daylight or even the television
  • Joint or muscle pain