Authored By: Dr. Preeti Sharma

Sr. Consultant Pediatrician


Meningitis is an infection / inflammation of the meninges – the covering of brain and spinal cord. It is caused by bacteria and viruses commonly. Rarely fungi and non-infectious causes may also cause meningitis.

Symptoms –

  1. Fever – is present in most cases of meningitis and in small babies and infants sometimes high grade fever maybe the only presenting complaint.
  2. Headache
  3. Neck stiffness
  4. Vomiting’s
  5. Irritability – specially in younger children
  6. Lethargy

Diagnosis –

If your pediatrician suspects meningitis she may ask for a brain imaging – CT scan or MRI. But a lumbar puncture is the only way to confirm the diagnosis and also helps in deciding which medication is most likely to help.

Lumbar puncture is performed by inserting a very small needle through the child’s back in the space between 2 vertebrae to collect cerebrospinal fluid. It sounds very scary to most parents but it is a rather simple procedure. If a diagnosis of meningitis is missed it can have long term sequelae/ complications.

Management –

Mainstay of treatment is intravenous antibiotics for bacterial meningitis – duration of antibiotics is usually for 2-3 weeks. Oral antibiotics do not work in meningitis.

For viral meningitis treatment is mostly supportive but for some viruses antivirals drugs are effective.

Complications –

If meningitis is not treated appropriately or timely it can lead to sequelae/complications.

  1. Deafness
  2. Epilepsy
  3. Cognitive impairment – impairment in intellectual functions and day to day activities
  4. Weakness of hands or legs

Prevention –

Meningitis can be caused by many bacteria or viruses. For the common organisms causing bacterial meningitis vaccination is available so be sure to vaccinate your child on time.

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