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What are the Symptoms of Meningitis in a Child?

What are the Symptoms of Meningitis in a Child?

by: Dr. Sorabh Goel
Consultant - Neonatology-Paras Bliss, Panchkula

Meningitis is a term used for infection of brain. Meningitis is a life threatening disease. It has many long term complications if not diagnosed and managed well early in disease course. Major complications are physical disability, seizures, poor school performance and low IQ. Child can also have hearing loss of varying severity.

Causes of Meningitis:

It is commonly caused by viruses and bacteria. In small number of cases other organisms are also found to be responsible like fungi, protozoa and rickettsiae. Viral meningitis is usually mild and has less morbidity except few like Japanese encephalitis and untreated herpes virus infections. Bacterial meningitis is usually severe and had more complication if not treated on time.

Source of infection of Meningitis:

There are various modes of transmission of meningitis like airborne infections, mosquito bite (Japanese encephalitis), waterborne infections. Many cases of meningitis can be caused by animal bite (rabies). Infected patients can also transmit infection to close contacts like measles, mumps, influenza, meningococcal meningitis and many more.  So it’s very important to take due precautions for spread from cases. In some cases medicines are also recommended to prevent meningitis spread like those caused by Hemophillus influenza and meningococcal meningitis.

Symptoms associated with Meningitis:

The infected child can present with nonspecific complaints like fever, loss of apetite, body pains, and joint pains, symptoms of diarrhoea or upper respiratory infections. Suspicion of meningitis is high if a child has associated headache, vomiting and skin rash. The infected child may also complain of photophobia (sensitivity to light). Kindly consult a paediatrician if the child has even mild symptoms, such as irritable behaviour and excessive lethargy or sleep. The affected child may also have abnormal body movements or seizures and even unconsciousness/coma.

Prevention for Meningitis:

  • Medicines: These are prescribed to close contacts of patients to prevent spread of meningitis.
  • Vaccination: Although all meningeal infections are non preventable. But vaccines are available for many common causes of meningitis like Japanese encephalitis, meningococcal infection, pneumococcal infection and meningitis caused by haemophillus influenza. Do contact your paediatrician regarding the availability and need of vaccination of your child against meningitis.
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