Learn first aid for a baby or child who may have meningitis

1. If a baby or child has flu-like symptoms, a headache and a high temperature, they may have meningitis. They may also complain of a stiff neck and be sensitive to light. At a later stage a rash may form, and the rash won’t disappear when a glass is pressed on it.

Other symptoms of meningitis include cold hands and feet, joint pain, drowsiness and vomiting. A baby or child with meningitis can have one or more symptoms, and some symptoms occur later on as the infection develops.

2. Call 999 if you see these symptoms.

Do not wait for all the symptoms to appear. A baby or child with meningitis can deteriorate very quickly. It is potentially very serious and needs immediate attention.

3. Reassure them until help arrives.

If they have a fever, you can give the baby or child cold drinks to cool them.

Watch how to help a baby or child who may have meningitis (1 minute 6 seconds)

Common questions about first aid for a baby or child who may have meningitis

What is meningitis?


What is sepsis?


Should I wait for all the symptoms to appear before calling 999?


How do I check whether a rash is a sign of meningitis?


What does the rash look like?


Will the symptoms be different for a baby?


 

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an illness where the linings that surround the brain and spinal cord swell up. It can be caused by bacteria or viruses, and can happen to anyone at any age.

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What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a life-threatening complication that can happen when the body is fighting an infection, causing damage to tissues and organs. There are many causes of sepsis, including one of which is meningitis. It is usually older people or young children who are affected, although it can affect anyone, especially people with weakened immune systems. Signs of sepsis include many of the signs of meningitis and can also include feeling breathless or breathing very fast, speech becoming slurred or confused, and not passing urine all day (or no recent wet nappies in young children). If you suspect sepsis in someone of any age or if you are unsure, call 999.

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Should I wait for all the symptoms to appear before calling 999?

No, you should call 999 as soon as you suspect it may be meningitis. Do not wait for all the symptoms to appear. Without immediate treatment, meningitis can cause permanent damage.

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How do I check whether a rash is a sign of meningitis?

Rashes usually appear in the later stages of meningitis and sometimes do not appear at all.

If the baby or child has a rash, press the side of a clear glass against their skin. Most rashes will fade when pressed. If you can still see the rash through the glass, it may be meningitis.

Call 999 as soon as possible if you suspect meningitis but they do not have a rash. Do not wait for a rash to appear before you call 999.

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What does the rash look like?

The rash is made up of small red or purple “pin prick” spots that may spread to look like fresh bruising. The rash can be more difficult to see on dark skin.

The rash will not disappear when a glass is pressed against it.

Rashes usually appear in the later stages of meningitis and sometimes do not appear at all.

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Will the symptoms be different for a baby?

Babies may have any of the typical signs and symptoms of meningitis, including:

  • flu-like symptoms
  • a headache
  • a stiff neck
  • being sensitive to light
  • a high temperature.

They may also have a high-pitched cry or become floppy. The soft part on the top of their head (the fontanelle) may bulge or become hard.

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Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for a baby or child who may have meningitis.