Meningitis: When to call your doctor
What is Meningitis?
"Meningitis refers to an inflamation or irritation of the meninges which are the layers of tissue that protect and surround the brain and spinal cord," said Dr. Sarah Mulder from the Traverse Area Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic. "It usually refers to a very serious infection that can be caused by viruses or bacteria or other pathogens."
What causes meningitis?
Dr. Mulder said three of the more common causes of bacterial meningitis are Haemophilus, Influenzae, Pneumococcus, and Meningococcus. She also said children are now routinely vaccinated for several strains of these bacteria significantly decreasing meningitis cases in the U.S.
What are the signs of meningitis?
"In an infant younger than two months it may be fever, irritability, not feeding well, or being listless," said Dr. Mulder. "The most common age for meningitis is two months to five years, and these kids usually have fever, extreme irritability and true lethargy to the point of not being able to wake them. Dr. Mulder also added that they may be vomiting, have a seizure or a rash, as well.
"Older children and adults tend to have the more classic signs of meningitis with fever, stiff neck and back, headache, as well as any of the things mentioned above," said Dr. Mulder.
When should you call the doctor?
"If you suspect this, you must seek medical care immediately," said Dr. Mulder. "Seven out of 10 kids with bacterial meningitis will recover without complication with prompt and proper treatment, and two out of 10 will have complications including deafness, seizures, loss of limbs or other problems with their nervous system."
Dr. Mulder said if your doctor suspects meningitis, they may do a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) and blood work. The child would be hospitalized and placed on strong antibiotics and watched very carefully. If it is a virus causing the illness, treatment may include bed rest and fluids.
To learn more about meningitis, click the video above.
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