Fall is a time of year when kids often pick up colds and other
viruses. Unfortunately they’re also more at risk of getting
something more serious, meningitis.
Meningitis is a disease involving inflammation of the meninges,
the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
There are two types of meningitis: viral and bacterial.
“The prognosis for viral meningitis is
very good,” according to Dr. Mark Baker, a physician in the Emergency Department
at Children’s of Alabama. “It’s relatively common
and usually goes away in about a week. The prognosis for bacterial meningitis
depends on how quickly you get treatment.
As Dr. Baker indicated, viral meningitis is the most common
form. It’s usually less serious than bacterial meningitis. It’s
caused by many different types of viruses, including those that infect the
skin, urinary tract, or digestive and respiratory systems.
Children with viral meningitis may present a lot of flu like
sensitivity to light
To identify meningitis, doctors may do a spinal tap (lumbar
puncture) to get a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid for testing. Most people
recover on their own within 7-10 days.
Bacterial meningitis is rare, but is usually more serious and
can be life threatening if not treated immediately.
Bacterial meningitis is caused by different types of bacteria. Bacteria
that infect the skin, urinary tract, gastrointestinal and respiratory system
can spread via the bloodstream to the meninges.
Sometimes bacteria may spread from severe head trauma or a
severe local infection, such as a serious ear or nasal infection.
A person with bacterial meningitis may have:
sensitivity to light
If untreated, bacterial meningitis can lead to seizures, coma
and even death.
For this reason Baker said it’s important to see
your child’s physician anytime they are ill and don’t
seem to be acting like themselves.
“Anytime you think your child is
seriously ill, or something doesn’t seem right,” he said. “It’s
a good idea to have your doctor check them out or come to the emergency room
and have a doctor check them. Also, if your child has had contact with someone
who has meningitis, you should call your doctor to see if preventive medication
Treatment for bacterial meningitis includes an extended hospital
stay with a strong dose of IV fluids and antibiotics.
There is encouraging news, though, in terms of prevention. Routine
immunizations can go a long way toward preventing meningitis. The vaccines
against Hib, measles, mumps, polio, meningococcus, and pneumococcus can protect
against meningitis caused by these microorganisms.
For more information about meningitis visit