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Meningitis Symptoms Warning Signs

It's not easy to spot the symptoms of meningitis. People often confuse the early signs and symptoms of meningitis with the flu. In fact, meningitis may come on the heels of a flu-like illness or infection. That's why it's important to stay alert, learn the hallmark signs and symptoms of meningitis, and act quickly. It may help save a life.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis symptoms may develop within hours or days. Viral meningitis symptoms may also develop quickly or over several days.

Here are more common signs and symptoms of both types. Not all symptoms may appear or appear in the same order. Fever, headache, and neck stiffness are the hallmark symptoms of meningitis.

  • Fever
  • Severe, persistent headache
  • Neck stiffness and pain that makes it difficult to touch your chin to your chest
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and disorientation (acting "goofy")
  • Drowsiness or sluggishness
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Poor appetite
  • More severe symptoms include seizure and coma

 In infants, symptoms may include fever, irritability, poor feeding, and lethargy.

Other Potential Signs and Symptoms of Meningococcal Disease

These are additional signs and symptoms of meningococcal infection that has entered the bloodstream:

  • Abnormal skin color
  • Stomach cramps
  • Ice-cold hands and feet
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle ache or joint pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chills

 

When to Seek Medical Care for Possible Symptoms of Meningitis

If you suspect that your child or someone you know has meningitis, seek medical care right away.

  • Call the doctor and describe the signs and symptoms.
  • Go immediately to the nearest emergency room if a doctor is not reachable right away. The person who is sick should not drive. Call 911 if transportation is not available.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on August 02, 2012

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