Meningitis 'Red Flag' Symptoms

Meningitis 'Red Flag' Symptoms

12 September 2006

18-24 September - Meningitis Awareness Week

Meningitis Research Foundation, is raising awareness of the Meningitis 'Red Flag' symptoms during Meningitis Awareness Week in order to save lives.

Meningitis Research Foundation funded a very large national study of children who had meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) which identified key early symptoms commonly seen by parents and family doctors. If recognised in an ill child, these early symptoms are a 'flag' that medical attention is needed so that life-saving treatment can be given in time.

The 'Red Flag' early symptoms are:

  • cold hands and feet
  • limb pain
  • pale or mottled skin

These 'Red Flag' symptoms typically occur some 5-8 hours before the classic textbook symptoms of rash, neck stiffness and impaired consciousness.

Meningitis Research Foundation Chief Executive Denise Vaughan commented: "The Foundation is delighted to have funded the study which identified the 'Red Flag' symptoms as early diagnosis is crucial. This disease can progress so fast that within a few short hours of the initial symptoms being present a previously healthy child or adult could be in intensive care fighting for their life.

"During our Awareness Week Meningitis Research Foundation aims to save lives by alerting people to the 'Red Flag' symptoms and encouraging them to get their FREE symptoms information NOW from the Foundation's helpline."

Remember meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours - contact the Foundation's Freefone 24 hour helpline - 080 8800 3344 - for FREE symptoms information.

Read more about this project:

Research Archive for the public - Health care delivery and outcome: a confidential enquiry into meningococcal disease in children

Research Archive for the scientific community - Health care delivery and the outcome of meningococcal disease in children

Media Contact: Julia Warren, Meningitis Research Foundation - 01454 281811 or 07711 057875

Notes to Editor:

  • During Meningitis Awareness Week Meningitis Research Foundation aims to save lives by alerting people to the 'Red Flag' symptoms and to get further information from its Freefone 24 hour helpline - 080 8800 3344.
  • Each year in the UK there are more than 3,000 cases of meningitis and septicaemia resulting in some 300 deaths. Although there are vaccines which provide excellent protection against some forms of the diseases, they cannot prevent them all. Awareness is therefore the key to ensuring a rapid diagnosis and prompt treatment.
  • Meningitis and septicaemia is the most common infectious cause of death in children in the UK.
  • Information on meningitis and septicaemia is also available on this website in 18 languages. An interpretation service is available in 120 languages through the 24 hour helpline.
  • Meningitis Research Foundation is currently funding 18 research projects at research institutions throughout the UK and internationally, to a value in excess of £2.5 million, and has by far the largest commitment of any meningitis charity.
  • Meningitis Research Foundation relies on public support to fund its vital work.

Red Flag symptoms:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Limb pain
  • Pale or mottled skin

Symptoms of meningitis:

Severe headache; Stiff neck*; Dislike of bright lights*; Fever/vomiting; Drowsy and less responsive/vacant; Rash; Seizures (fits) may also be seen. (*unusual in young children)

Symptoms of septicaemia:

(This form of the illness often starts with non-specific flu-like symptoms):<> Rash; fever/vomiting; cold hands and feet/shivering; limb/joint/muscle pain; abdominal pain (sometimes with diarrhoea); pale or mottled skin; rapid or unusual breathing, drowsy and less responsive/vacant.

Other symptoms in babies include:

tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot); blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue; refusing to feed; be irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry; a stiff body with jerky movements or else floppy and lifeless.

Sam Williams
Media Relations Manager

Hi, I’m Sam and I’m MRF's PR Manager.

If you want to know more about this story call me on 0333 405 626251, out of office hours on 07875 498047 or email me