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Viral Meningitis in Children
, also called aseptic meningitis, is inflammation of the lining that surrounds your child's brain and spinal cord. The infection can be life-threatening.
Signs and symptoms
may only take a few hours to a few days to develop:
- High fever and chills
- Stiff neck or neck pain
- Severe headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Red or purple rash
- Eye pain when your child looks into bright lights
- Sleepiness or confusion
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- Your child is hard to wake.
- Your child has a seizure.
Seek care immediately if:
- Your child has a headache and stiff neck.
- Your child is confused.
- Your child has a red or purple rash.
Call your child's doctor 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.
may include 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. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. 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 or her. 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 prevent or 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. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her 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.
Help your child prevent the spread of viral meningitis:
- Have your child wash his or her hands often. He or she should wash after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Have your child use soap and water. Show him or her how to rub soapy hands together, lacing the fingers. Wash the front and back of the hands, and in between the fingers. The fingers of one hand can scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Teach your child to wash for at least 20 seconds. Use a timer, or sing a song that is at least 20 seconds. An example is the happy birthday song 2 times. Have your child rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Your older child can use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Remind your child to cover a sneeze or cough. Show your child how to use a tissue to cover his or her mouth and nose. Have your child throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Then your child should wash his or her hands well or use a hand sanitizer. Show your child how to use the bend of his or her arm if a tissue is not available.
- Do not let your child share items with others. Examples include toys, food, and drinks.
- Keep your child away from others. He or she should not return to school or daycare until healthcare providers say it is okay. Have your child avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Ask about vaccines your child needs. Vaccines help protect your child and others around him or her from diseases caused by infection. Have your child get a yearly flu vaccine as soon as recommended, usually in September or October. Your child's healthcare provider can tell you other vaccines your child should get, and when to get them.
Follow up with your child's 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 Viral Meningitis in Children (Ambulatory Care)
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