Meningitis occurs when the membranes that cover and protect your brain and spinal cord become infected and inflamed. The inflammation can be caused by a bacterial infection or a viral infection, producing bacterial meningitis or viral meningitis. Meningitis has also been known to be caused by a parasite or certain fungi.
Meningitis can occur in people from a wide range of age groups. The popularity of certain strains of meningitis will vary depending on the age group. Babies and children under age five have been known to contract the virus. Meningitis is also common among college students because close living quarters make it possible for bacteria and viruses to spread easily. Older people aged 50 and up are also at risk. A weaker immune system makes it easier to contract infections.
If you think that you are at risk for contracting meningitis, here are some common symptoms of meningitis that you should look out for.
• Stiffness in the neck
Having a stiff neck is a common symptom. If you do not have any neck stiffness then it is very unlikely that you have meningitis. Neck stiffness will prevent you from being able to easily twist your neck around and it will be difficult to move your head up and down (as if you are nodding your head).
• Severe headache
Having a severe headache is also a common symptom. This is because of the swelling of the protective membranes. Headaches can occur for many different reasons, however if headaches are accompanied by any of the other symptoms on this list then you should get checked out.
• Light sensitivity
Light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, can also be a sign of meningitis. Phonophobia (sensitivity to loud noises) is also a symptom.
Other possible symptoms include:
• Fever and/or chills
Diagnosing meningitis in infants and young children is harder to do because they cannot tell you what symptoms they are experiencing. Most cases of meningitis occur in children under 5 years old so it is important to be aware. Here are some symptoms of meningitis to look out for in children. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should take the child to receive emergency care.
• Refusing food/vomiting
• High-pitched crying
• High fever
• Cold hands and feet
• Blank stare
• Frequent arching and retracting the back
• Fussy and uncomfortable while being held
A popular symptom of meningococcal meningitis that affects anyone infected in a rash. This distinctive rash is caused by an infection in the blood stream known as septicemia. This rash has been known to be fatal. The rash begins as a small cluster of small blood droplets under the skin. This infection multiplies quickly and, if left untreated, will progress to other parts of the body.
Meningitis is a deadly condition but it is also treatable. If you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Vaccines are also available. If you know that you will be in an environment where meningitis lingers (such as a college dormitory), it is a good idea to get the vaccine to protect yourself and others.