Research identifies early warning signs of meningitis and septicaemia
11 January 2006
Meningococcal disease – meningitis and septicaemia – is the most common infectious cause of death in children in the UK. Early diagnosis is crucial as the disease can progress so fast that within a few short hours of the initial symptoms appearing a previously healthy child could be in intensive care fighting for their life.
Meningitis Research Foundation funded a fifteen-month study of children who had had the disease to identify whether there were key early symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, which if recognised at an early stage, could save lives. Red flag early symptoms include cold hands and feet, limb pain and abnormal colour (pallor or mottling) whilst classic textbook symptoms of rash, neck stiffness and impaired consciousness typically occur later.
The study showed that half the children with meningococcal disease were initially sent home by their GP. Since most children who die from meningococcal disease die within 24 hours, it's important that if a child is sent home without a diagnosis, parents are encouraged to seek help right away if their child gets worse.
Meningitis Research Foundation Chief Executive Denise Vaughan commented: "This important research funded by the Foundation has not only identified the early symptoms of septicaemia but the need for doctors to systematically look for those symptoms in sick children. We hope this will change the model of how meningitis and septicaemia are looked for in primary care and save lives."
This research is the largest study of its kind. It is also totally unique in looking at symptoms in the community. It underlines the importance of recognising early signs of septicaemia which are frequently not accompanied by the classic meningitis symptoms.
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 01454 281811 or 07711 057875