Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. It may be either a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. However viral meningitis is the most common form. This disease affects patients of all ages. However, it is most common in babies and young children. Symptoms include fever, headache and neck pain. This disease is life-threatening. Therefore patients should see a doctor at the first sign and begin treatment.
Fever and Flu Symptoms
Meningitis presents with similar symptoms to the flu. Fever, drowsiness, a cough, and a running nose are all contributors to the flu. If these are present in conjunction with four other meningitis symptoms, then it is time to call the doctor. Other symptoms include the chills, muscle and body aches, headaches, a sore throat and swollen glands. For adults, a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 F) is high, in children it above 37.5C (99.5F).
A meningitis rash results from bacterial poison damaging blood vessels. At first, this may be quite faint and may seem like bruising or irritated skin, taking the form of a light prickle of spots over the skin. As it progresses, the rash, or spots, can darken and become enlarged as a reaction to bleeding under the skin. They can be pink, red or a blue-purple colour. This meningitis rash can appear anywhere on the body, but not everyone with meningitis will develop the rash. Be sure to check thinly skinned areas like inside the mouth, the palms and eyelids.
Headaches caused by meningitis are more painful than a common headache. Infection in the brain’s lining causes inflammation causing pain. The patient’s entire skull will ache as a result. The pain is so severe patients are unable to function normally. Patients should visit their doctor in any event where a headache presents with this level of severity, but especially if this is present with other meningitis symptoms.
Neck Stiffness and an Arched Spine
Neck pain and stiffness is a common symptom. The lining of the spinal cord becomes infected and inflamed and this stretching makes movement extremely painful. Looking down tends to be the most painful movement. Children with meningitis may appear to arch over backward (referred to as opisthotonos) as a result.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is not a pleasant feeling and the majority of the population will have experienced it in their lifetime. Specifically, it is the urge to vomit. Nausea is not exactly painful, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. You may feel the sensation in your stomach or upper abdomen, around your back and in your throat. Vomiting is an involuntary release, which empties the contents of the stomach, through the mouth.
Disorientation can cause minor confusion, however, in severe cases, a person may not know who or where they are. Delusions or even hallucinations may result from this symptom, as well as agitation and restlessness. A person with this symptom may appear confused, lost or even drunk. Any event where a person becomes confused and restless warrants a visit to the doctor.
Drowsiness may cause a person to feel their eyelids drooping and head dropping. They may nod off quickly and easily resulting in quick naps at their desk, table or sofa. Frequent yawning and blurred vision may result, as well as moodiness and lethargy. Meningitis patients experiencing drowsiness may feel as though they are never getting enough sleep.
Sensitivity to Bright Lights
Sensitivity to light is classified as an abnormal intolerance to light. Pain or discomfort in the eyes will occur as a result of looking into the light or being in the presence of light. When caused by meningitis, this is the result of neurological swelling affecting the nervous system. Children with this symptom may be unable to understand and recognize it.
Lack of Appetite
Bacteria or a virus in the body will cause loss of appetite. Loss of appetite may result in weight loss. The lack of nutrients will also result in loss of energy. As well as no desire to eat, trouble swallowing or following through with the intake can occur, as the thought and action of eating is no longer appealing.
Cold Hand and Feet
A cold feeling in the extremities can cause discomfort for meningitis patients. Meningitis may present with this as one of the first symptoms. Treatment of this symptom can be as simple as a pair of gloves or socks. Although the symptom itself may not seem serious, it is important that patients are mindful of other symptoms that may occur in combination.