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Bacterial Meningitis In Children


  • Bacterial meningitis is also called spinal meningitis. It is an infection and inflammation (swelling) of the meninges caused by bacteria (germs). Meninges are linings around the brain and spinal cord. Normally, the meninges serve as a wall between the blood and the brain and spinal cord. The meninges prevent germs and other substances from entering the brain and spinal cord. With meningitis, bacteria enter and damage the meninges. Fluid in the brain gets infected which causes inflammation. Because of the inflammation, blood flow is decreased to the brain and there is increased pressure in your child's head.
  • Your child can become sick if he had contact with a person infected with bacterial meningitis. Common signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis are fever, headache, stiff neck, and sleepiness. Your child may eat or drink poorly, vomit (throw up), or have a seizure (convulsion). Bacterial meningitis is diagnosed by a lumbar puncture, blood tests, and a computerized tomography (CT) scan. Treatment may include antibiotic medicine. Bacterial meningitis may be prevented by getting a vaccination (shot).
    Lying Position Sitting Position



  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.
  • 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.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight an infection caused by bacteria. Give your child this medicine exactly as ordered by his primary healthcare provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotics unless directed by his primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or give your child leftover antibiotics that were given to him for another illness.
  • 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.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

Bacterial meningitis may cause hearing and learning problems so your child should be carefully followed by his caregiver.

Home care:

  • Rest: Your child should rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep. Have your child rest in a dark, quiet room if he still has headaches. Your child may slowly return to normal activity when he seems ready. Once your child feels better, he can do all the things he normally does.
  • Keep your child away from people who have colds and the flu. Also try to keep your child away from large groups of people while he is recovering from surgery. This decreases your child's chance of getting sick or getting an infection.
  • Keep your child away from others. Try to keep your child away from others while he has a fever and feels bad. While your child is sick, he may be contagious (able to spread his sickness). Do not send your child to school or daycare until his fever is gone and he is feeling better.


  • You have a fever.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your child's disease, medicine, or care.


  • Your child has a fever, stiff neck, or a headache.
  • Your child is fussy, sleepy, or seems confused.
  • Your child has a seizure (convulsion).
  • Your child is vomiting and has signs of dehydration (loss of body fluids). Signs of dehydration include crying without tears or passing little to no urine.
  • Your child has breathing problems.
  • Your child's symptoms are getting worse or coming back.
This is an emergency. Call 911 for an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital.

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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.