Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size
A
A
A

Understanding Meningitis -- Symptoms

While meningitis is rare, it's a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. So it's a good idea to know typical meningitis symptoms. The most common symptoms are:

Sometimes, these symptoms follow a flu-like illness, ear infection, or sinus infection.

Recommended Related to Children's Vaccines

DTaP and Tdap Vaccines

DTaP is a vaccine that helps children younger than age 7 develop immunity to three deadly diseases caused by bacteria: diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis). Tdap is a booster immunization given at age 11 that offers continued protection from those diseases for adolescents and adults. Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death. It's highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing. Tetanus, or lockjaw, is caused...

Read the DTaP and Tdap Vaccines article > >

If your child is too young to talk, you may have a hard time detecting some of these symptoms. So in infants and young children, the only evident meningitis symptoms might be:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty feeding
  • High-pitched cry
  • Pale or blotchy skin
  • Crying when held
  • Arching back

The speed with which meningitis symptoms develop varies. Bacterial meningitis symptoms come on quickly, usually over a period of hours. With viral meningitis, symptoms might develop over several days.

When to See a Doctor

Of course, what's disturbing about the above list of meningitis symptoms, especially for a parent, is that most are incredibly common.

So here's one important thing to keep in mind. Beyond any of the specific meningitis symptoms, children or adults with bacterial meningitis -- the most serious type -- usually become very ill very quickly.

Even though the odds of getting meningitis are very small, you should still err on the side of caution. If you or a family member have been exposed to meningitis or have worrisome meningitis symptoms, give your health care provider a call. If the meningitis symptoms seem severe, go to the emergency room right away. Getting prompt treatment for meningitis can make all the difference.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Lisa B. Bernstein, MD on March 18, 2015

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.