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Childhood Illnesses

Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection that can affect anybody. It is more common in babies, children, teenagers and young adults. Meningitis can be very serious if it is not treated quickly so it is important to recognise the signs and symptoms.

The following symptoms may be signs of meningitis. Remember that your child may not have all of these at the same time. These symptoms can appear in any order, and some may not appear at all:   

    • Stiff neck
    • Bothered by light
    • Feeling or being sick
    • Confusion
    • Extra sleepy
    • Shaking
    • High temperature (fever) you can't control
    • Unusually cold hands and feet
    • Rash that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it.

Some of these symptoms can be signs of other more minor illnesses too. If you are worried, it's important to get help from a health professional straight away. If your child has meningitis, the symptoms can get worse quickly.

Meningitis and other infections can also lead to a very serious complication called sepsis, so it's important you also know the symptoms of this too.

If you are not sure whether your child is seriously unwell, call 111 or your GP for advice.

Remember that you know your child best. If you think your child is seriously unwell and may have meningitis, do not wait for a rash to appear.

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E department


Meningitis in Babies

In babies, meningitis can also cause these symptoms:

  • Vomiting or refusing feeds
  • Becoming irritable and not wanting to be picked up
  • Bulging soft spot on their head (fontanelle)
  • Becoming floppy or unresponsive
  • Crying which is unusual for them – may be very high pitched
  • Stiff body.

Who Can Help? 

Meningitis can develop quickly. Even if your child has been seen by a health professional and sent home, keep an eye on them. If you are worried they are getting worse or seem sicker than you would expect, act quickly. Speak to a health professional and ask, "Could this be meningitis?".

The Lullaby Trust - Baby Check App- This app has simple checks that you can do if your baby is ill and helps you think about whether they need to see a doctor or health professional.

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