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Bacterial Meningitis

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Bacterial meningitis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds and protects your brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection and can be life-threatening. The bacteria are found in the mouth, throat, or nose. They are spread from an infected person to another by coughing, kissing, or sharing food or drinks. It can also spread from an ear, nose, throat, sinus, or brain infection. A head injury or head surgery may also spread the infection.

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You are hard to wake.
  • You have a seizure.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a headache, fever, and stiff neck.
  • You are confused.
  • You start to have trouble seeing or hearing.
  • You have a new red or purple skin rash.

Call your doctor if:

  • You think someone in your family has bacterial meningitis.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Steroids decrease redness, pain, and swelling.
  • Seizure medicine helps prevent or control seizures.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent the spread of bacterial meningitis:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
    Handwashing
  • Do not share items. This includes food and drinks.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. Vaccines help protect you and others around you from diseases caused by viruses or bacteria. Get a yearly flu vaccine as soon as recommended, usually starting in September or October. You may need a pneumonia vaccine. This vaccine is usually offered every 5 years. Your healthcare provider can tell you other vaccines you may need and when to get them.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

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

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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 Bacterial Meningitis (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.