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Meningitis in babies & toddlers

 
Would you know if your little one had meningitis? Spotting the symptoms early could save their life. We take a look at some of the causes, treatment and prevention of meningitis, the glass test and how you can help protect your baby or toddler.
Would you know if your child had meningitis?

Spotting the symptoms early could save their life.

We take a look at some of the causes, treatment and prevention of meningitis, the glass test and how you can help protect your baby or toddler.

 

What is meningitis?

 
  • Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and it comes in two forms: bacterial and viral.
 
  • The viral form is rarely fatal, and most children soon recover.
 
  • Bacterial meningitis is more serious and is often accompanied by septicaemia, an infection of the blood stream. Left untreated, babies and young children can die within hours or end up with brain damage and permanent physical side effects.
 
  • Although it's a very serious condition, if caught early enough, bacterial meningitis is treatable.

 

What causes meningitis?

 
  • Meningitis is caused by viruses and bacteria.
 
  • Viral meningitis usually causes a less serious infection, but it's still a nasty illness with potentially long-term complications.
 
  • The most common bacterial meningitis is caused by meningococcal bacteria, which lives in the throat and nose of some healthy people. If these bacteria spread to people who don't carry them, they can overwhelm the immune system causing infection.
 
  • Meningococcal bacteria fall into several groups, but most cases are caused by groups B and C.
 
  • The second most common form of bacterial meningitis is pneumococcal meningitis, which generally affects babies under two.
 
  • Pneumococcal meningitis may be more likely to affect babies who are immuno-compromised or who have pneumonia, sickle-cell, or chronic heart and lung disease. Generally though, there is no way of predicting which babies are at risk.
 
  • Meningitis in newborn babies is caused by a different bacteria, mostly Group B streptococcal bacteria.

 

Meningitis symptoms

 
  • Meningitis and scepticaemia can affect any baby but there is an increased risk for newborns, as their immune systems are not fully developed.
 
  • It's therefore vital that parents are aware of the symptoms to ensure that they are not mistaken for flu.
 
  • Symptoms can appear in any order over one to two days or a matter of hours. Often symptoms only appear when the disease is already advanced.
 
  • Fast action is vital when either meningitis or septicemia are suspected.

 

10 common warning signs of meningitis


Signs to look out for if you think your child might have meningitis include:


1. A high temperature

2. Clammy pale skin

3. Sleepiness and difficult to rouse

4. Refusal to feed

5. Vomiting (this can also be projectile and in large quantities)

6. A bulging or tense fontanel (the soft spot on top of your baby's head)

7. Seem irritable when handled

8. High-pitched shrieking or crying. especially when handled

9. Cold hands and feet despite a high temperature

10. Purple rash that does not fade with pressure. However, this does not always appear in babies and is usually only present when the child also has scepticaemia .

 

Scepticaemia warning signs


Signs to look out for if you think your child might have septicaemia include:
 
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Raised respiratory rate
  • Rash

 

The glass test

 
Should your baby have a rash, use the glass test (also known as the tumbler test) to check for septicaemia:


1. Press a glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If it doesn’t fade, it could be a septicaemic rash.

2. If this happens, seek medical advice immediately. And even if you’re not quite sure, don’t wait.
  1. Press a glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If it doesn’t fade, it could be a septicaemic rash.

  2. If this happens, seek medical advice immediately. And even if you’re not quite sure, don’t wait.

- See more at: http://www.madeformums.com/baby/meningitis-symptoms-to-watch-out-for-in-babies-and-toddlers/1737.html#sthash.zJsEV8f6.dpuf



Treating meningitis

 
  • Treatment of meningitis depends on the severity, speed of detection and your little one's constitution.
 
  • Some can be treated in hospital with strong antibiotics and other children will go straight to the critical stage and need intensive care and ventilation.
 
  • Knowing the symptoms and getting your child to a doctor as soon as possible are critical.



Preventing meningitis

 
  •  You can help by teaching your children good hygiene as this can dramatically reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria, ie washing their hands after using the toilet and before eating; covering their nose or mouth with their arm when they have a cough or sneeze.
   
  • Ask your GP or medical practitioner for more information.
 
  • If you suspect your little one has meningitis, seek urgent medical assistance immediately. Even if you’re not entirely sure.
 

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Image source: blogs.redcroos.org.uk
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