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Viral Meningitis


Viral meningitis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds and protects your brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis is also called aseptic meningitis.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Have someone call 911 if you have a seizure or have a hard time waking up.

Seek care immediately:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You are confused.
  • You have a new red or purple rash.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

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


You may need any of the following:

  • 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. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Antinausea medicine calms your stomach and helps control vomiting.
  • Antiviral medicine helps fight an infection caused by some viruses.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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


You should rest as much as possible. A dark, quiet room is best if you have headaches or your eyes are sensitive to light.

Prevent viral meningitis:

  • Clean surfaces with soap and water. Disinfect with a solution that has water and chlorine-containing bleach.
  • Completely heat chilled foods before you eat or serve them.
  • Discard tissue after you wipe or blow your nose.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Do not share food or drinks.
  • Certain illnesses caused by a virus, such as the mumps, can lead to viral meningitis. By taking steps to help prevent these illnesses, you can also help prevent viral meningitis. Make sure you have had the following vaccinations:
    • Influenza vaccine helps prevent influenza (flu). Everyone older than 6 months should get a yearly influenza vaccine. Get the vaccine as soon as it is available, usually in October or November each year.
    • MMR vaccine helps prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. Children 1 year or older need 2 doses. Doses are usually given between 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years.
    • Varicella vaccine helps prevent chickenpox (varicella) infection. Children usually get 2 doses. The first dose is usually given at 12 to 15 months. The second dose is usually given at 4 to 6 years. Any older child who is not fully vaccinated may need 1 dose. Any older child who is not vaccinated and has never had chickenpox should receive the vaccine.
    • Polio vaccine (IPV) helps prevent polio. IPV is also called inactivated polio vaccine. Infants and children usually get 4 doses of IPV. The vaccine is usually given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. The vaccine may be given as early as 6 weeks of age.

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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.