Meningitis is the inflammation and infection of the meninges, the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
What to look for
- fever and drowsiness.
- severe headache usually associated with pain in the eyes.
- stiff neck, shoulders, or back.
- severe shooting pain down the back of the neck
- seizures and coma.
- in infants, a bulge in the soft spot on the skull.
- in infants, a stiff neck and a floppy body.
There are two types of meningitis – the viral and bacterial forms. Viral meningitis is common and not as dangerous. (It is still important to consult a doctor who will confirm which meningitis strand the patient has).
The symptoms are usually flu-like and/or more severe. The other type is a bacterial form and is called meningoccal meningitis which sometimes occurs in local epidemics. This is a very serious illness and it is vital to have immediate conventional medical attention or death may occur in hours.
This illness can occur in spina bifida babies and also very young children in general.
Meningitis can be contagious among people living close together.
Bacterial meningitis is caused by any one of several bacteria. These bacteria are often spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Some research indicates that people are more vulnerable to bacterial meningitis after a bout of the flu or if there is already an infection present in the body at the time.
Viral meningitis can be triggered by a variety of viruses. These viruses can be spread through contact with infected rodents. Another cause is fungal often found in pigeon droppings
Confirmation of meningitis requires a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap.
Samples of your blood, urine, and secretions from your nose or ears may also be taken.
The bacterial form of meningitis in particular is life-threatening. Immediate medical treatment is vital
If you have meningococcal meningitis, your doctor may recommend that people with whom you have been in close contact undergo preventive antibiotic treatment.
Because meningitis is a serious and potentially fatal disease, you should use alternative treatments only after you have received emergency medical care.
To maintain a healthy immune system and prevent recurrences of infections that can lead to meningitis, eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet, avoid sugar and processed foods. Vitamin supplements can also be helpful.
When to seek further professional advice
- you develop the symptoms listed in the description section