Meningitis is a serious but rare infection with children. High fever, headache, neck pains and stiffness in the neck or back together with little dot-shaped spots in the skin can all be signs of meningitis. A child with meningitis suffers from malaise, meaning that the child only wants to stay in bed and cannot be lured into activity. You must call the doctor immediately, if you suspect your child has meningitis.
Meningitis is one of the most feared and serious infections. Luckily the illness only occurs rarely.
Meningitis can be caused by a virus or bacteria.
Meningitis caused by bacteria is the far most dangerous kind. Statistics show that 3-4% of the children with bacterial meningitis die. Haemophilus influenza type B used to be the most frequent cause of meningitis with children less than 5 years old. After vaccinations against this bacterium began, this illness has almost disappeared. Today, meningitis with children is caused by other bacteria. The best known is the meningococcal disease that is caused by the meningococcus bacteria.
Meningitis caused by virus is less dangerous than bacterial meningitis. Children with viral meningitis do not fall as seriously ill as children with bacterial meningitis.
Meningitis can start as a common cold, but typically as a bolt from the blue. Larger children complain about pains in the head and neck. A child with meningitis is seriously ill and you can tell by observing the child.
Possible symptoms of meningitis:
- Complains about pains in head and/or neck
- Fever – often more than 39,5°C
- Malaise – lies still in bed and cannot be lured into activity
- Uneasy and sensitive to sound, light and touch
- Vomiting and nausea
- Stiffness in neck and back *
- Tense fontanelles *
- Little red dot-shaped spots on the skin *
* A child is stiff in neck and back, if it cannot put its forehead to its knees or if it cannot look down on its own navel. Infants do not become stiff in neck or back; instead the natural gaps in an infants skull will feel very tense. The small red spots are caused by small bleedings beneath the skin. In praxis, you can examine the rash by pressing the bottom of a glass against the skin – if the spots are still visible through the glass, it can be a sign of meningitis.