Viral Meningitis In Children


Viral meningitis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds and protects your child's brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is caused by a viral infection and can be life-threatening. Viral meningitis is also called aseptic meningitis. The most common symptoms include a high fever, stiff neck, and headache.



  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not helping or if he has side effects. Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child takes any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines he takes. Include the amounts, and when and why he takes them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's infectious disease specialist or primary healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


Your child should rest as much as possible. Have your child rest in a dark, quiet room if he still has headaches. Your child may slowly return to normal activity as directed.

Infection prevention:

  • Clean surfaces with soap and water. Disinfect them with a solution that includes water and chlorine-containing bleach.

  • Completely heat chilled foods before you serve them to your child.

  • Make sure your child discards tissue after he wipes or blows his nose.

  • Have your child wash his hands often with soap and water.

  • Do not let your child share food or drinks.

For more information:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    NIAID Office of Communications & Government Relations
    5601 Fishers Lane, MSC 9806
    Bethesda, MD 20892-9806
    For deliveries, use Rockville, MD 20852
    Phone: 1- 301 - 496-5717
    Phone: 1- 866 - 284-4107
    Web Address:

Contact your child's infectious disease specialist or primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child is more fussy or sleepy than usual.

  • You think someone in your family has viral meningitis.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition, medicine, or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child is hard to wake.

  • Your child has a headache and stiff neck.

  • Your child is confused.

  • Your child has a seizure.

  • Your child has a new red or purple rash.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Viral Meningitis In Children (Aftercare Instructions)