Meningitis in an inflammation of one or more membranes that surround the brain. Inflammation is almost always the result of an infection. Usually, it is not related to another infection, although it is sometimes caused by bacteria or viruses that have already caused a more general infection, such as mumps or acute middle ear infection. Meningitis can also be the result of penetrating head injury (see meningitis).
Infants or children have a high temperature (up to 39 ° C), will be indisposed and nervous and, if it is old enough to talk, will complain about severe headache. The neck is stiff or bent backwards.
A child may unnaturally calm down and retreat into himself, turn away (or protect the eyes) from strong light (protophobia), vomit and get spasms (see spasms in children). In severe cases, a rash can occur on the body.
In very small infants, fontanelle is protruded and tense (and not slightly retracted as in a healthy infant) due to inflammation that causes increase of internal pressure in cerebrospinal fluid.
Meningitis is very rare in children under the age of 14 (only one child out of 2500 get meningitis annually). Since it is sometimes contagious, meningitis can occur as a minor epidemic in a closed community, for example, in boarding school.
Infants and younger children are at greater risk than older children and adults because inability to communicate prevents early detection of this disease; if the infection is bacterial, untreated meningitis can be very life-threatening. In other words, the younger the patient, the greater the possibility of brain damage ending in some form of intellectual disability or cerebral paralysis, and even death. However, most cases of illness are detected early enough for successful treatment, and the child is completely healed.
What to do?
If your child has the symptoms described, call your doctor right away. Whether the doctor’s doubts about meningitis, the infant or the child will be received in a hospital where lumbar puncture will confirm the diagnosis. Antibiotics are given against bacterial infections. Viral infection usually passes by itself. A fluid that a baby lost by vomiting will be compensated by an infusion.