Meningitis In Children – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

4 min read

Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Meningitis, the sound of which itself is quite menacing, can be even more nightmarish when children are faced with this disorder. If your child is facing extreme headaches and skin rashes, then in all probability, he or she has meningitis. Let us go through in detail all about meningitis, why it occurs, how it can be diagnosed, and what are the treatments available for this disorder.


What Is Meningitis?

Meningitis is nothing but the thin protective membrane that your spinal cord and brain are covered with. This membrane is what protects the nervous system, which is central to the spinal cord and brain. Meningitis occurs when this membrane is inflamed and damaged. Depending on the severity of the damage, meningitis can be a fatal condition, too, which can potentially lead to death. Although it is not that prevalent as it was a few decades ago, it is still a threatening disorder that leads to millions of deaths every year. Meningitis is a contagious disease and easily transmitted through nasal discharges, air, and fecal infections. Meningitis can also be contracted through close contact with an affected individual. Although it is a communicable disease, it cannot be easily spread through breathing the same air like that of an individual who is affected by the condition. But extra care needs to be undertaken, especially with children, to avoid contracting this disease.

Meningitis In Children

Meningitis in children can be a scary situation for parents as it is a fatal condition. But unfortunately, it is mostly children who contract this disease. This is due to the lesser immunity power in children, which makes them more susceptible than adults to this deadly disorder. If you are pregnant, you will need to be extra careful as it can spread from you to your new-born also after delivery.

Causes Of Meningitis In Children

It is the microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria which trigger the inflammation in the membranes. In some cases, it can also occur without the interference of bacteria. Here are two causes of meningitis.

Bacterial Causes

Many kinds of bacteria lead to damaging the membranes. However, these bacteria differ according to the individual and their age groups. The Group B Streptococci bacteria which inhabit the vaginal tract and the E-coli bacteria which can be found in the digestive tracts are the bacteria that result in meningitis in new-born as well as premature babies. Whereas, for children under the age of 5, Type B Haemophilus influenza is what results in this condition. For older children and adults, it is the Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria Meningitis that is contracted.
Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening. Around 10% of children contracted this type of meningitis is reportedly die, and 15% is reported left with lifelong disabilities.

Viral Causes

Apart from bacteria, meningitis can also be caused by viruses and microbes. Some common viruses which cause cold sores, diarrhea and cold are capable of bringing about viral meningitis in children. Microbes such as herpes simplex virus, varicella, and enterovirus can bring about viral meningitis in children. One of the side effects of such viral meningitis is HIV and mumps. For infants, these viruses enter the body through the bloodstream. The good news is that meningitis caused by viruses is rarely life-threatening. Even though the recovery process of viral meningitis is very slow, babies will make a good improvement.

Signs And Symptoms Of Meningitis In Children

Meningitis symptoms in children differ, depending on their age and the cause of the infection. What you have to remember is that not all the children exhibit all of these symptoms. Also, the symptoms can appear in any order. Here are some basic symptoms of meningitis to look out for in children;

  • When the child suddenly develops a high fever with a cold hand and feet.
  • When the child suffers constant headaches and neck stiffness
  • When the child’s mental status is altered, and he or she is always sluggish or inactive.
  • When the child develops skin sores and rashes
  • When the child becomes extremely sensitive to light
  • When the child develops severe muscle pain
  • When the child loses appetite and is constantly crying
  • Look out for a bulge in the baby’s soft spot on top of the head, if the baby is too small.

Diagnosing Meningitis

The process of diagnosing meningitis in adults involves lumbar puncture, where blood samples are collected by inserting a needle into the spinal cord to check for any culture or inflammation in the membranes or the presence of any bacteria or virus. It is quite a difficult and painful process and should not be carried out until and unless your trusted pediatrician suggests undergoing it as it can cause serious brain disorders such as brain herniation.

Treatment Of Meningitis

When you doubt your child contracted meningitis, it is very important to get medical help right away. When it comes to treating meningitis, we can simply put – early, the better. It is basically a pursuit against time.
However, there is no specific cure that has been found for this deadly disorder. Even if treated, meningitis cannot be completely cured and can be life-threatening. Medical practitioners make use of steroids and antibiotics for the treatment of meningitis. If your child has a medical history or any neurological conditions, then the treatment for meningitis is provided accordingly. Although treatment for children and adults is quite similar, the only difference is that children cannot be given steroids and hence need to drink lots of fluids to flush out the virus and bacteria from the system.

Complication Of Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis can bring about several complications in children. Some of those complications have lifelong effects. It can bring about,

  • Neurological issues like visual impairment, hearing loss, and intellectual disability.
  • Shock
  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures
  • Dangerously low blood pressure

Preventing Meningitis In Children

Once the disease is contracted, the chances of survival are quite low, but we can always take precautionary measures to ensure the prevention of the diseases. Vaccination is one of the sought after prevention methods for meningitis, and these days, this vaccination is a default in children’s vaccination schedule. You mustn’t miss this vaccination for your child. Antibiotics are another way of preventing the spread of this disease and also help in controlling the severity of it when diagnosed early. If there are any home remedies to relieve the children from this disease that you are aware of, feel free to comment them below so that other mothers can also immensely benefit from it!

Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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