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Nurse Taking Notes

Know the Symptoms of Meningitis...


Flu, fever or deadly disease - Would you know how to spot meningitis in different age groups?

Symptoms of meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia are quite difficult to spot as they are very similar to those of flu, and vary between age groups.

The symptoms may develop over one or two days, but in some cases it could be in a in a matter of hours. The incubation period is between two and ten days.

Early Warning Signs:

Brand-new research has identified a number of early symptoms for meningococcal disease - the bacterial form of meningitis - in children that could substantially speed up diagnosis. These include:

  • Leg pain

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Abnormal skin colour

  • However, if you can't identify these early signs then we advise people to look out for the 'classic' symptoms of the disease:

  •  Fever and high temperature

  • Bad headache

  • Stiff neck

  • Severe aversion to bright lights

  • Vomiting and sometimes diarrhea

Symptoms do not appear in any particular order and some may not appear at all. It is important to remember that different symptoms may occur in different people.

And remember: adults are not immune.

Symptoms in Babies:

  • High temperature, fever, possibly with cold hands and feet

  • Vomiting, or refusing feeds

  • High pitched moaning, whimpering cry

  • Blank, staring expression

  • Pale, blotchy complexion

  • Baby may be floppy, may dislike being handled, be fretful

  • Fontanelle (soft spot on their head) may be tense or bulging

  • Difficult to wake or lethargic

  • Symptoms in children and adults

  • High temperature, fever, possibly with cold hands and feet

  • Vomiting, sometimes diarrhoea

  • Severe headache

  • Neck stiffness (unable to touch the chin to the chest)

  • Joint or muscle pains, sometimes stomach cramps with septicaemia

  • Dislike of bright lights

  • Drowsiness

  • Fitting

  • Patient may be confused or disoriented

  • Both adults and children may have a rash