Meningitis and Septicaemia

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by either a virus or bacteria.

Viral meningitis is usually mild and does not require medical treatment. Bacterial meningitis however can be life-threatening and can come on very quickly. Children under five are most likely to be affected and sadly some of these will die.

There are several types of bacteria that can cause meningitis, the most common being meningococcal bacteria. Most of us carry this bacteria in our noses and throats without becoming ill. The bacteria can be passed through kissing, sneezing and coughing. Only if the bacteria reaches the blood stream does the person contract meningitis and/or septicaemia - most people who get meningitis will also get septicaemia.

Mercifully, meningitis and septicaemia cases are quite rare. However, it is important to know the symptoms as early treatment is vital.

Symptoms

  • High temperature - above 99.5°F/37.5°C.
  • Extreme sleepiness - difficulty in waking baby.
  • Headache.
  • Staring expression.
  • Dislike of bright lights.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Difficulty breathing, or fast breathing.
  • Shivering.
  • Vomiting.
  • Purpley-red or brown rash.
  • Cold hands and feet.
  • Bulging soft spot (fontanelle).
  • Blotchy skin getting paler or turning blue.
  • A high-pitched or moaning cry.
  • Abnormally stiff body with jerky movements.

A septicaemia rash usually starts as purpley-red or brown pinpricks on the skin anywhere on the body. To check whether the rash is a sign of septicaemia, press a clear glass against the rash. Other rashes will fade, if this one does not do so it is likely to be septicaemia.

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Author: Tony Luck who runs a site with advice about everything to do with babies and a gift store specializing in personalized ceramics - greeting cards (yes, ceramic greeting cards!) and commemorative plates.

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