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Viral Meningitis In Children


Viral meningitis, also called aseptic meningitis, is inflammation of the lining that surrounds your child's brain and spinal cord. The infection can be life-threatening. Viral meningitis is caused by viruses found in saliva, blood, nose drainage, and bowel movements. The virus is spread from an infected person to another through coughing, kissing, or sharing food or drinks. Your child may also get a type of viral meningitis if he is bitten by a mosquito that carries the West Nile virus.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child is hard to wake.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has a fever, headache, and stiff neck.
  • Your child is confused.
  • Your child has a new red or purple rash.

Contact your child's 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 or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • 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 your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Seizure medicine helps control seizures.
  • 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.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Help manage your child's symptoms:

  • Help your child rest as much as possible. A dark, quiet room may help if he or she has headaches. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about when your child can return to school or daycare.
  • Give your child liquids as directed. Your child may need extra liquids to help prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to give your child each day and which liquids are best for him or her.

Prevent the spread of viral meningitis:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Use soap and water. Have your child wash his hands after he uses the bathroom or sneezes. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Do not let your child share food or drinks. Discard tissues after he uses them to wipe or blow his or her nose.
  • Get vaccines as directed. Vaccines help protect your child and others around him or her from diseases caused by infection.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

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

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.