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Encephalitis - Topic Overview

How is it treated? continued...

You will also get care to ease your symptoms and allow your body to heal on its own. This is called supportive care. You may take medicines to reduce pain and fever or to stop seizures. In some cases, you may need a machine called a ventilator to help you breathe.

After you are out of the hospital, it may take several weeks, months, or even longer to fully recover from your symptoms. You can take care of yourself by eating well and getting plenty of rest. Follow your doctor's instructions on how much fluid to drink. If your doctor says it's okay, you can take nonprescription pain relievers for headaches. These include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Some people have long-term problems. If you have muscle weakness or problems with coordination, you may need physical therapy. If you have speech or memory loss, you may need speech therapy or occupational therapy.

Can encephalitis be prevented?

Your chance of getting encephalitis is low. But there are things you can do to reduce your chances even more.

  • Make sure that you and your children get shots (vaccines) against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and the flu.
  • Avoid areas where there has been an outbreak of viral encephalitis. If you can't avoid these areas, prevent mosquito bites with these tips:
    • Stay indoors at dawn, at dusk, and in the early evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors and are likely to be where mosquitoes are.
    • Avoid wearing floral fragrances from perfumes, soaps, hair care products, and lotions. These may attract mosquitoes.
    • Use insect repellent with DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). The repellent is available in varying strengths up to 100%. In young children, use a preparation containing less than 24% strength, because too much of the chemical can be absorbed through the skin.
    • Spray clothing with an insect repellent containing permethrin or DEET, because mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. DEET can damage plastic items, such as watch crystals or eyeglass frames, and some synthetic fabrics. You also can use natural products such as soybean-based Bite Blocker.
    • Avoid applying repellent to the hands of children. Repellents may irritate the eyes and mouth.
    • Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the directions for use.
    • Do not keep open containers of water near your house. Standing water is a breeding place for mosquitoes.
  • If you are taking a long trip to the Far East or to central or eastern Europe, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against certain types of mosquito- or tick-borne encephalitis. For example, there is a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis. Getting vaccinated is especially important if you are going to a rural area.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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