Symptoms of bacterial meningitis usually appear suddenly.
The most common symptoms of either form of meningitis include:
- Severe and persistent headache.
- Stiff and painful neck, especially when trying to touch the chin to the chest.
- Confusion and decreased level of consciousness.
Less common symptoms include:
- Sluggishness, muscle aches and weakness, and strange feelings (such as tingling) or weakness throughout the body.
- Eye sensitivity and eye pain from bright lights.
- Skin rash.
- Dizzy spells.
Babies, young children, older adults, and people with other medical conditions may not have the usual symptoms of meningitis.
- In babies, the signs of meningitis may be a fever, irritability that is difficult to calm, decreased appetite, rash, vomiting, and a shrill cry. Babies also may have a stiff body and bulging soft spots on the head that aren't caused by crying. Babies with meningitis may cry when handled.
- Young children with meningitis may act like they have the flu (influenza), cough, or have trouble breathing.
- Older adults and people with other medical conditions may have only a slight headache and fever. They may not feel well and may have little energy.