Meningitis is a rare but serious disease, so it's important to learn the symptoms.
Be on the lookout for these signs in you or your family:
- Stiff neck that sometimes makes it hard to touch your chin to your chest
- Headache, which can be severe
- High fever
- Nausea or vomiting
- Discomfort from bright lights
Sometimes these symptoms follow a flu-like illness, ear infection, or sinus infection.
If your child is too young to talk, you may have a hard time noticing these symptoms. So in babies and young children, watch for things like:
- Acts sluggish
- Difficulty feeding
- High-pitched cry
- Red or purple spots on the skin
- Cries when held
- Arches back
How fast meningitis symptoms develop can vary. Bacterial meningitis symptoms come on quickly, usually over a period of hours. With viral meningitis, symptoms might appear over several days.
When to See a Doctor
Children or adults with bacterial meningitis -- the most serious type -- usually become very ill quickly.
Even though the odds of getting meningitis are small, you should still play it safe. If you or a family member have had contact with someone who has meningitis -- or you notice any symptoms of the disease -- give your doctor a call. If the symptoms are severe, go to the emergency room right away. Prompt treatment for meningitis can make all the difference.