Signs & Symptoms of Meningitis in Babies & Toddlers

Always be aware: meningitis and sepsis can often occur together

  • In most cases someone who develops meningitis or sepsis will become ill very rapidly
  • The symptoms can appear in any order
  • Do not wait for a rash, it is often a late symptom and may never appear at all

Symptoms in Babies & Toddlers

Babies and young children are at a higher risk of meningitis due to their underdeveloped immune system. The main causes of meningitis are bacteria and viruses.

Viral meningitis is generally not life-threatening, but still poses a risk to young children. Recovery from viral meningitis can be slow. On the other hand, bacterial meningitis is a serious condition that requires immediate hospitalisation and urgent medical treatment. Unfortunately, around 10% of children with bacterial meningitis may die, while others may experience lifelong disabilities. It’s important to be aware that some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicemia, which can lead to a rash. However, do no not wait for a rash as it can be a late stage symptom. Always know all of the signs & symptoms.

  • Fretful, dislike being handled

  • Drowsy, floppy, unresponsive

  • Fever, cold hands and feet

  • Refusing food, vomiting

  • Rapid breathing or grunting

  • Pale, blotchy skin. Spots/rash, see glass test

  • Unusual crying or moaning

  • Tense/bulging fontanelle
    (soft spot)

  • Convulsions or seizures

  • Stiff neck, dislike to bright light

Other Symptoms That May Occur

Delay in passing urine As a guide: all day in adults. 12 hours in babies and young children. Unable to stand unaided

If you are concerned that it could be meningitis or sepsis call 111 or your GP. In an emergency dial 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest accident and emergency.

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