If you are worried about your little one and don’t want them to suffer, read onto find out all about meningitis and its signs in children.

All children are sensitive and are still in the process of developing immunity against harmful viruses and bacteria. Therefore, they usually catch illnesses without showing any prominent signs of illness. Because they cannot verbally tell you that they are suffering, the job for parents becomes even tougher.

One of the many common illnesses that a toddler comes across is meningitis. Meningitis is a bacterial infection that makes the inner membrane of the brain swell. This disease is life-threatening, especially if it is not taken care of in time.

What Meningitis Really Is?

Before we get started, we need to understand what this disease really is. Meningitis is a bacterial infection, which causes inflammation of the meninges. Meninges are membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. This disease is usually caused by virus and bacteria, but sometime it can also be caused by certain medical reactions and health conditions.

There are two types of meningitis:

  • Viral Meningitis –This type of meningitis is not very serious and its symptoms are similar to the common flu or cold. This meningitis is usually caused by direct contact with contaminated water, feces, or airborne droplets.
  • Bacterial Meningitis –This type of meningitis is caused by bacteria and is usually life threatening.Bacterial meningitis can be caused by exposure to an affected person, infection, or travelling to a place where this bacteria is common. A blotchy red rash that doesn’t fade or change color when a glass is pressed against it is a possible symptom of bacterial meningitis.

Remember, meningitis might be life threatening, but if it is treated promptly, it can go away pretty soon.

Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis in Children

Catching the symptoms and signs of meningitis in babies and young children is quite a troubling task. Babies and young children under 5 years of age are most at risk of developing bacterial meningitis. However, if you pay close attention to your child’s health and condition, you will be able to detect this bacterial infection. Below is a list of some common signs and symptoms of both kinds of meningitis:

  • Fever
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Refusing to eat
  • Disrupted mood
  • Resists being held or handled
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Grunting
  • Pale and spotted skin
  • Constant crying
  • Irritated by light
  • Seizures
  • Stiff neck
  • Drowsy
  • Muscle or joint pain

Some Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.  The rash can be harder to see on dark skin, check for spot on paler area like the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, on the tummy, inside the eyelids and on the roof of the mouth.

If you observe these signs in your child, then you must take immediate action by taking them to the doctor.

Diagnosing Meningitis: Even with numerous symptoms, you might not be sure if your child is suffering from meningitis or not. However, it is always best to head to the doctor to get the condition diagnosed. There are a few diagnosis procedures that doctors perform on toddlers that are showing symptoms of meningitis.

Lumbar Puncture: Lumbar puncture or spinal tap is a procedure in which a medical practitioner inserts a needle around the spinal cord in the lower back, and takes a little sample of spinal fluid for test. The fluid is then taken to a lab where it is undergoes several tests to find presence of bacterial infection. 

Blood Culture: A blood sample is also taken to determine whether bacteria are present or not. The results of this blood culture also help determine which antibiotic treatment will be best for the child. 

CT Scan: Sometimes doctors perform CT scan before the procedure of lumbar puncture to determine if there is another condition that is causing the symptoms. CT scan is also performed to find out if it is safe to perform lumbar puncture or not.

Getting Meningitis Treated: Once the results of the test are ready, you will be able to find out whether your child has bacterial meningitis or viral meningitis. Once it is clear, your doctor will begin the treatment. However, if the results aren’t out, the doctor might put the child on a medicinal program for bacterial meningitis. The reason that doctors do so is that bacterial meningitis is extremely harmful and with every passing second, it gets worse. So, they start early medication to avoid extensive damage to the child’s health.


If your Child has Bacterial Meningitis: Bacterial meningitis is life threatening which needs immediate care. If your child is diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, then they will be admitted in the hospital where they will be provided with 24 hours care. The doctors will also closely examine their health and treat their condition with intravenous antibiotics. Nurses will also monitor your child for signs of complications and improvements.


Antibiotic Treatment: As soon as your doctor finds out that your child has bacterial meningitis, they will put them on an antibiotic treatment. Children aren’t given antibiotics orally as they are less effective. The child gets their doses intravenously.

If the condition of your child is improving, then the antibiotics will be discontinues within 48 to 72 hours. However, if the condition doesn’t improve and the child faces complications, then the antibiotic treatment might continue for several weeks.

If your Child has Viral Meningitis: Viral meningitis is not life threatening. Therefore, it is usually treated with supportive care. The child is given medications for the treatment of headache and fever. The doctors suggest that children consume more water when they are sick with this virus. The child suffering from viral meningitis should also rest and allow their body to recover. Meningitis can post threat to your child’s health. Therefore, it is important that every parent gets their children vaccinated on time to keep this illness at bay. Preventative antibiotics can also be given to children on the direction of the doctor if the child came in contact with infected subjects.

When one of your children is suffering from meningitis, it is important for the entire family to take preventative measure to protect themselves from the harmful bacteria. Lastly, when you start noticing signs of meningitis in your child, visit a pediatrician or a medical practitioner immediately. Bacterial meningitis is quite dangerous and if not treated immediately, it can take away your precious one’s life. So, keep a close eye on your child and when you see signs of illness, reach out for help.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.