Meningitis

Mothers need to know about other common illnesses babies can experience. In this chapter, we discuss everything from the very serious to the very common. Read on to learn how to prevent and care meningitis, impetigo, conjunctivitis, constipation and diaper rash.

Meningitis

Meningitis can be a serious illness that causes the membranes of the brain and spinal column to become inflamed. Most cases of meningitis in the U.S. are caused by viruses; however, meningitis is also caused by bacteria or fungi. Meningitis can be a very dangerous condition for your child and will require prompt medical attention.

Symptoms of Meningitis

Initially, symptoms seem like the flu or a cold. However, symptoms will become more serious as time passes. Your child might have:
• A high fever that comes on suddenly,
• A stiff neck,
• A very severe headache and/or a headache with nausea or vomiting,
• Inability to concentrate and confusion,
• Seizures,
• Difficulty waking,
• Light sensitivity,
• Lack of appetite or thirst,
• A skin rash.

Additionally, a newborn with meningitis might have a bulging soft spot (fontanel) in his or her head, constantly cry, be excessively irritable, feed poorly and have a stiff body and neck.

Should I Take My Baby to a Doctor?

Yes. If your baby has these symptoms, seek immediate medical care. Don’t wait for a doctor to return a call. Go straight to an emergency room. Bacterial meningitis can be deadly or can cause brain damage if not treated quickly.

Your doctor will likely take a blood sample, may order a CT scan or a lumbar puncture to confirm a diagnosis and course of treatment. Bacterial meningitis requires IV medications. People with viral meningitis usually recover after a few weeks of bed rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications.

Can I Prevent Meningitis?

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Yes. It’s important to keep your baby up to date on his or her immunizations to prevent viruses and bacteria that can cause meningitis. Specifically, the Hib and PCV13 vaccines will help prevent meningitis in younger children. Older children can receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine between the ages of 11 and 12 to help prevent meningitis.
You should also practice good hand hygiene and avoid letting your child eat and drink after others. Wash toys and pacifiers regularly to kill germs. Avoid spending time with people who are sick, and eat a well-balanced diet to keep your child’s immune system healthy.

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