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Prevent Meningitis: Tips to Protect Your Teen

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There's a lot you can do to help prevent meningitis in your teen. A meningococcal vaccine can help prevent the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in teens. Your teen can also take steps to enhance his or her immune system and to prevent the spread of the disease.

Meningitis Prevention: Protect With a Vaccine

Meningococcal disease is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in teens and young adults. The CDC recommends a meningococcal vaccine for all children 11 to 18. The vaccine is routinely given at 11-12, but it is also recommended for:

  • Anyone who has been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak
  • Anyone traveling to or living where meningococcal disease is common
  • Military recruits
  • People with certain immune system disorders or a damaged or missing spleen

Is your teen planning on going to a sleep-away camp? Be sure your teen gets vaccinated for meningococcal disease if he or she hasn't received the vaccination already. Close contact with other kids at camp puts your younger teen at increased risk just as college dormitories do.

Meningitis Prevention: Avoid the Spread of Disease

You cannot get meningitis from casual contact, such as by breathing the air that an infected person has breathed. These bacteria do not live long outside the human body. But you can get it from close or prolonged contact with an infected person. The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis live in the back of the nose and throat and are carried by 10% to 25% of the population.

Good personal hygiene can help prevent the spread of disease:

  • Don't share food, glasses, water bottles, or eating utensils.
  • Don't share tissues or towels.
  • Don't share lip-gloss or lipstick.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water.

Remember: A person with bacterial meningitis can remain contagious for about 24 hours after starting antibiotics. If a person with meningitis has exposed your teen to the disease, ask the doctor whether it is necessary to take antibiotics. Doing this for a few days may help prevent your teen from getting the disease.

Meningitis Prevention: Enhance the Immune System

Keeping the immune system healthy helps prevent susceptibility to a wide range of diseases. It may also help prevent infection by the viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis. This is just one more reason your teen may benefit from:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet, rich in vegetables and fruits
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on August 02, 2012

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