Symptoms of Meningitis – UK Guide

By | Last Updated: 2nd July 2019 | This post may contain Affiliate Links

Meningitis is a serious infection which tends to affect the protective membranes of the Brian and the Spinal Cord. Typically, Meningitis can affect anybody, however it’s more common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

Unfortunately, it can be an ‘easy’ infection to catch, in 2015 around 9 million people worldwide had the disease, this resulted in about 400,000 deaths. With the correct treatment, the risk of death from Meningitis is less than 15%.

The National Health Service takes Meningitis seriously, therefore a number of Meningitis Vaccinations are available to UK Citizens.


What is Meningitis?

Meningitis can be either a viral or bacterial infection. This basically means different viruses and bacteria’s cause the infection.

These usually include:

• Mumps
• Pneumococcal Bacteria
• Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib) Bacteria
• Meningococcal Bacteria – usually A, B, C, W, X, Y and Z
• Herpes Simplex Virus
• Enteroviruses

Remember…. Please remember this page is a “general guide only”, it’s not official medical advice. It’s always recommended to get professional guidance and diagnosis from your GP.

Symptoms of Meningitis

The symptoms of Meningitis can occur in ‘any order’ – there’s no set pattern. Typically, one of the most common symptoms is a blotchy rash, this will not fade even when a glass is rolled over it. However, it’s important to note, that not all Meningitis cases will have a blotchy rash present.

The ‘classic’ symptoms of Meningitis include:

• A headache
• Stiff Neck
• A Temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
• Vomiting or Nausea
• Dislike of Bright Lights
• Blotchy Rash (this doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it)
• Seizures (fits)

If you think your child or somebody you know has Meningitis please trust your ‘instincts’ and call for professional medical assistance.

In an emergency…. In an emergency call 999 or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency department.

If you’re wanting reassurance or have a question please contact your local GP or call NHS 111.

Other symptoms of Meningitis can also include:

• Confusion
• Aching Muscles
• Lack of Energy
• Pale
• Cold Hands and Feet
• Refusing Food (Normally Babies and Young Children)
• Unusual Crying


Meningitis Rash Glass Test

A good way of ‘testing’ for meningitis at home is by pressing a clear glass firmly against the skin. If the rash doesn’t fade, this generally is a sign of blood poisoning.

Small, red rashes are the first classic symptom of Meningitis in most cases. It will typically spread quickly over the body and can turn into purple or red blotches. Apart from the main areas of the body, there can be spots on ‘paler’ areas such as the soles of the feet, eyelids, roof of the mouth and palms of the hands.

If this is applicable to your situation, you should seek professional medical assistance immediately.

Remember the internet cannot diagnosis anybody, it can only provide a list of ‘general’ symptoms. The only person who can 100% diagnosis Meningitis is a trained Doctor.


How is Meningitis Spread?

Meningitis is usually ‘spread’ through sneezing, coughing, kissing and sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes. It’s not ‘uncommon’ for the virus to be spread by the nose or throat of people who are not actually ill from the infection themselves. This means they pass on the infection without experiencing any symptoms, so they don’t realise they’re carrying it.

If somebody you ‘know’ has Meningitis the chance of this spreading to others is ‘low’, however it obviously can occur. Normally if you’re in close contact for a prolonged duration who has Meningitis your chances of getting the infection obviously increases. This tends to affect:

• People in the same house
• University students in halls of residence
• Pupils in dormitories
• Partners such as a Boyfriend and Girlfriend

What is Meningitis

Depending on how long the infection person has had Meningitis, some Doctors may recommend a dose of antibiotics to their immediate family members or friends as a ‘precautionary measure’. As all cases are different, you will need to discuss this in further detail with a trained GP.

To make matters even worse, it’s possible to get Meningitis more than once, this means the body doesn’t also ‘build up’ antibodies against the infection as the strain can easily change and adapt.


Who’s most at risk of Meningitis?

In theory, anybody can be Meningitis at any age, nobody is ‘safe’, however most cases usually involve one of the following groups:

• Babies
• Young Children
• Teenagers
• Young Adults
• People with Weak Immune Systems – such as people with HIV or people having Chemotherapy

The best ‘recommendation’ from Doctor’s is to have all the required vaccinations supplied by the NHS.

You should keep these vaccines up to date, particularly if you’re travelling outside of the United Kingdom. If you’re going to a country which is regard ‘at-risk’ then speak to your GP surgery about obtaining a ‘booster’ dose, this is usually only applicable if it’s been over 10 years since your last injection. However, just to be on the safe side, please call to make sure.


Meningitis Vaccination

The NHS routinely vaccines against Meningitis as part of their ‘Childhood vaccination programme’. This will offer protection against the most ‘common’ forms of the disease.

The Meningitis vaccines include:

Men B Vaccine – This is offered to babies who are aged 8 weeks, a second dose at 16 weeks and a ‘booster’ dose at 1 year old.

5-in-1 Vaccine – This is given to babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks

Pneumococcal Vaccine – Given to babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks

Meningitis C Vaccine – This is given to babies at 12 weeks old, 1 year and to teenagers and first-time university students

MMR Vaccine – Offered to babies at 1 year old and a second dose at 3 years and 4 months

Meningitis ACWY Vaccine – This is given to teenagers, sixth form students and first-time university students, also known as ‘freshers’.

For more information regarding the Meningitis vaccines please contact your local Doctors surgery for more guidance.


How is Meningitis Treated?

Typically depending on the severity of Meningitis, most people will typically have to receive treatment in hospital. This normally includes both tests and a stay.

The usual Meningitis tests while in hospital may include:

Physical Examination – Carried out by a Doctor

A Blood Test – This will check for bacteria and viruses

Lumbar Puncture – This will take a sample of fluid from the spine and check for viruses and bacteria.

CT Scan – Also known officially as a Computerised Tomography Scan, this will check for any problems in the Brain

Symptoms of Meningitis

In most cases, when a Doctor suspects Meningitis, the patient will normally ‘start’ a treatment of antibiotics before Meningitis has been confirmed. Usually Meningitis will require ‘close monitoring’ by Doctors and Nurses, so a stay in hospital nearly always occurs.

Other hospital treatments for Meningitis may include:

Oxygen – This is usually given through a ‘face mask’ if there any breathing problems

Fluids – Doctors and nurses will give fluids if a patient is dehydrated

Antibiotics – Normally ‘given’ directly into a vein

Steroid Medicine – This tends to be only used if there’s swelling around the brain.

The length of stay in a hospital can vary, depending on how serious the infection is. Some people may only stay a couple of days, while others may stay longer than a week. This depends on a ‘case-by-case ‘ basis.

Remember that after being discharged from Hospital, the patient may not feel 100% for a few weeks. Sometimes they may also require additional treatment, if hearing or vision loss as occurred for example.

Your Doctor or consultant will be speak about individual requirements and a treatment plan moving forwards before a patient leaves the Hospital.

While at home, most people should:

• Take painkillers for general aches or headaches
• Get lots of rest
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Some people may need anti-emetic medicine for any vomiting

If you have any concerns about how Meningitis is treated, please speak to your local GP surgery or call NHS 111 for more advice and guidance.


Complications of Meningitis

In most cases, the majority of people make a full recovery from meningitis, however sometimes it can cause life-threatening and long-term health problems.

Some of the most common complications from Meningitis include:

• Balance Problems
• Hearing Loss
• Seizures (Epilepsy)
• Loss of Limbs
• Vision Loss
• Kidney Problems
• Learning Difficulties
• Arthritis and Bone / Joint Problems

It’s estimated around 1 in 10 cases of bacterial meningitis is fatal. As stated earlier on this page, no internet website can diagnosis anybody, only a trained Doctor can give a 100% correct diagnosis’ of Meningitis.


The History of Meningitis

It has been claimed that Hippocrates, the Greek physician, may have known by the existence of Meningitis as early as 350 BC. It’s not until around 1768 when Edinburgh physician Sir Robert Whytt described Tuberculous Meningitis as “dropsy in the brain”.

The first major outbreak of the infection was in 1805 in Geneva, Switzerland. The first African epidemic occurred in 1840 and other major outbreaks also happened in Ghana and Nigeria around 1905.

Many physicians claim Meningitis is a ‘recent’ infection, rather than historical, however some dispute this notion. It wasn’t until 1944, when penicillin was first reported to be effective in meningitis. Since this date, the injections we now take were developed from this discovery.

Did you know? World Meningitis Day is celebrated on the 24th of April each year.

Please bear in mind, this website is for use as a ‘general guide’ only, it does not replace or substitute any professional health advice or treatment from a Doctor. We cannot accept responsibility or liability under any circumstances. Please contact your local GP practice or ring NHS 111 if you have any questions or queries regarding Meningitis and how it may affect you or a family member.