Meningitis: Symptoms, Treatment, & More


Nov 26, 2019


Fever, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light – these can all be symptoms of the flu or other common illnesses. But, did you know that they can also be signs of meningitis? What makes that so scary is that meningitis can have deadly consequences if not diagnosed and treated in time. To help determine the cause of your flu-like symptoms, learn how to detect meningitis, and identify your treatment options.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis occurs when the meninges in the membranes around the brain or spinal cord become inflamed. Meninges surround your brain and spinal cord, so when swelling occurs, it can cause symptoms like headaches and a fever. There are two common types of meningitis: viral and bacterial. Meningitis is typically contagious and is transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or close contact. Other causes of meningitis may include:

  • Cancer
  • Chemical irritation
  • Fungi
  • Drug allergies

Symptoms of Meningitis

Whether you have viral or bacterial meningitis, the symptoms are often the same in the beginning. The difference is usually in the severity of the symptoms – with bacterial meningitis being more severe.

Symptoms of Viral Meningitis

  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stiff Neck
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Nausea and vomiting

Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis

  • Altered mental status
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Stiff neck
  • Purple areas of skin – resembling bruises
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Faint rash – a late sign of Neisseria meningitidis 

Risks & Complications of Meningitis

Meningitis including bacterial meningitis is more likely to occur in people who have skipped their childhood or adult vaccinations, are under the age of 20, live in a community setting (like a college campus), are pregnant, or have a compromised immune system. The longer you or your loved one waits to get treatment, the more likely they’ll experience the following complications:

  • Seizures
  • Hearing loss
  • Memory difficulty
  • Learning disabilities
  • Brain damage
  • Gait problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock
  • Other permanent neurological damages
  • Death

Treating Meningitis

If you think you or a loved one have meningitis, you should seek an emergency care clinic immediately. Meningitis can work quickly and be deadly if not treated. The doctor will review your health history — asking about your age, dorm residence, and daycare center attendance — and conduct a physical exam. In the physical exam, the physician will monitor the following:

  • Fever
  • Heart rate
  • Neck stiffness
  • Consciousness

A spinal tap will tell them if your meningitis is viral or bacterial and also help them determine the best antibiotic for treatment. Other tests that may be conducted include:

  • Blood cultures
  • Complete blood count
  • Chest x-rays
  • CT scan
  • Glass test

If the illness is bacterial meningitis, then the doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic. Once the test results have come back, they may administer other solutions – including corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, oxygen therapy, fluids, or sedatives. Depending on the type of meningitis and severity, it may take seven days to two weeks to recuperate.

Preventing Meningitis

Vaccines are the best way to prevent bacterial meningitis. There are two different vaccines that should be administered throughout a child’s life to help prevent the disease. The meningococcal vaccine is typically given to children 11-12 and again when they’re 16, and the Hib vaccine is given in four doses during the ages of 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months.

Another way to prevent viral or bacterial meningitis — and other diseases — is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Good hygiene can stop the spread of bacteria and keep you and your loved ones safe.

Emergency Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one have symptoms of meningitis, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Find the Complete Care location nearest you.