The spinal cord and the brain are surrounded by fluid and membranes. Theses membranes are called meninges. When there is inflammation or swelling of the meninges in children due to viral or bacterial infection, it results in meningitis in children
Meningitis in children caused due to bacterial infections is more severe than that cause by viral infections and can lead to fatalities. Hence, whenever a child shows the symptoms that are indicative of meningitis in children, then a visit to a doctor is absolutely essential.
Symptoms of meningitis in children
The onset of the symptoms of meningitis in children is very rapid and progresses within a few hours. The development of full blown symptoms may occur over the next two to four days. Some of the symptoms of meningitis in children are mentioned below:
- A stiff neck usually among older children
- In some cases, children may experience spasms or seizures
- Severe headaches which are different in sensation than normal headaches. The headaches may be accompanied by vomiting and excessive nausea that appears suddenly.
- High fever
- Disorientation, confusion, inattentiveness and problems in concentration. The children who are of a young age or infants may express this confused state by avoiding eye contact.
- Distinct behavioral changes
- Difficulties in waking up or increased sleepiness.
- Decreased interest in activities such as eating and drinking or loss of appetite
- In some cases, children with meningitis may develop rashes on the skin
- Photophobia or increased sensitivity to bright lights.
- Newborns and infants may show additional symptoms like poor feeding, excessive weakness, fatigue or tiredness, inconsolable and difficult to comfort, being slow or less active, persistent crying and increased irritability.
There are several complications that arise from meningitis in children such as partial to full blindness, speech loss, difficulties in memory, loss of hearing, disabilities or problems in learning, paralysis, behavioural disorders or problems, brain damage, shock, adrenal gland failure or failure of the kidneys.
Causes of meningitis in children
Some of the causes of meningitis in children are listed below:
- Meningitis in children is caused due to the inflammation of the meninges by various strains of bacteria and viruses. In rare cases, fungal infection of the meninges may also lead to meningitis in children
- Meningitis is contagious. However, it can be spread by direct contact or exchange of respiratory and oral fluids from infected individuals through kissing, coughing sneezing, etc. Also, prolonged periods of personal contact with infected individuals may lead to development of meningitis in children
- Children are highly vulnerable to meningitis as they may come into contact with other children who infected with meningitis in schools, playgrounds, day care centers, etc.
Treatment of meningitis
Most of the treatment methods for meningitis in children are used to treat the symptoms.
- Hospitalization of the children with severe cases of meningitis is essential to prevent fatalities and other extreme complications
- Medications for treating meningitis in children include antibiotics and antiviral drugs, corticosteroids for reducing the inflammation of the meninges and brain, anticonvulsants for seizures, sedatives for restlessness and excessive irritability in children and other drugs to treat headaches and fever.
- Vaccination against the hib bacteria and other bacteria can prevent infection and onset of meningitis in children.