Every other baby or young child will suffer from the flu and a skin rash sometime in his childhood. However, it is possible that what you thought was only a skin rash or the seasonal flu could actually be life-threatening! Meningitis, if not diagnosed and treated in time, can cause death in infants and young children. Understand how we must stay alert to protect our children from this dangerous disease.
Meningitis is usually the result of a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. The disease-causing microbe enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain and spinal cord, seriously infecting it and leading to inflammation of the membranes. The bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) is one of the most common causes of this disease in infants as well as adults. The viral form of the disease, or viral meningitis, doesn’t lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), unlike its bacterial counterpart.
Risk Factors For Meningitis
This is one of those life-threatening diseases that can infect your child out of the blue, sometimes for no apparent reason. However, your child may be susceptible to meningitis in the following cases:
- He/she has skipped vaccinations! The risk is much higher for anyone who hasn’t completed the recommended childhood vaccination schedule
- He/she recently had an ear or sinus infection
- He/she faced an accident leading to a skull fracture
- He/she has a compromised immune system
- He/she lives or is exposed in an area with high-density, crowded populations (e.g. Hajj pilgrims, dormitory students, military recruits)
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis in Children
It can be difficult to distinguish the symptoms of meningitis from something like flu, especially as meningitis may occur soon after the child has faced a flu-like infection. However, if the signs are not spotted in time, meningitis can escalate very quickly, even within a couple of hours. In severe cases, meningitis has even been known to cause death within 24 hours.
In light of the recent increase in the number of meningitis cases, doctors across the world have issued a warning to all parents. Please make a note of and share the following warning signs of bacterial meningitis with all your fellow parents. It can help save a child’s life.
Fever and Headache
Meningitis often leads to a high fever in young children, accompanied by a headache. This is usually a high temperature and not soothed by home remedies or fever medicines. Your baby may also look pale and his skin may feel blotchy when you touch him to check the temperature.
Neck Stiffness and Pain
This is the most hallmark sign of meningitis. The stiffness can be so severe that your child may find it difficult to touch his/her chin to the chest. The child may also experience muscle ache or joint pain along with this.
Many of us think that the red/purple rash is the main sign of meningitis. It is definitely one of the most talked about signs; however, it may NOT always be there. In fact, waiting for the rash to appear and neglecting other symptoms can prove to be fatal!
When it does appear, the rash looks red or purple and grows from small spots at first to look like bruises. It may appear anywhere on the body, including palms or soles.