After effects

Meningitis and septicaemia can cause a range of disabilities and problems that can alter lives. After effects may be temporary or permanent, physical or emotional.

  • Meningitis and septicaemia can cause a range of health problems that can alter lives
  • Doctors sometimes call health problems following meningitis and septicaemia sequelae
  • Health problems may be temporary or permanent, physical or emotional
  • Physical disabilities may be obvious, however neurological and emotional problems may not be immediately apparent but can also cause a wide range of challenges
Kathleen talks about losing her legs to meningococcal septicaemia, a bacterial form of the disease, and how this has affected her life​​

Meningitis and septicaemia are usually caused by microbes like bacteria or viruses. Sometimes they are due to fungal infections, although almost any microbe can cause them.

Probably the most common form of the disease, viral meningitis, can be very unpleasant but it is almost never life-threatening. Most people quickly make a full recovery from viral meningitis. Viruses rarely cause septicaemia.

But the most common life-threatening form of meningitis and septicaemia is bacterial.

Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia

Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia are more serious and life-threatening than viral meningitis and can be caused by a range of different bacteria.

Different bacteria cause more disease in different parts of the world. Meningococcal bacteria, for example, cause most cases in the UK and Ireland. 

Meningococcal meningitis produces severely disabling after effects in about one in twelve survivors. People who have severe meningococcal septicaemia tend to have a worse outcome.

Pneumococcal meningitis is even more likely to produce serious damage.

Neonatal meningitis (occurring in the first month of life) also carries a higher risk of after effects than most other forms.

A person recovering from viral meningitis may experience similar problems to someone who has had bacterial meningitis, but will rarely have such severe after effects.

More about the types and causes of meningitis and septicaemia


  • Memory loss/lack of concentration/difficulty retaining information
  • Clumsiness/co-ordination problems
  • Headaches
  • Deafness/hearing problems/tinnitus/dizziness/loss of balance
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Weakness/paralysis/spasms
  • Speech problems
  • Loss of sight/vision problems
  • Memory loss/lack of concentration/difficulty retaining information
  • Clumsiness/co-ordination problems
  • Arthritis/joint stiffness
  • Scarring/skin damage
  • Amputations
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung damage
  • Babies cannot tell you how they feel and parents can feel at a loss as to what the future may hold. 
  • Children can behave differently if they have been in hospital, they can become clingy, have temper tantrums and lose skills they have recently acquired.
  • Adults are often shocked to discover they are very tired and lacking in energy

A person who has been in hospital may feel well at discharge and not realise that they may not be able to slot back into their normal life immediately. It is important to realise that recovery can be a slow process.  

Even those who go on to make a full recovery often report that they became easily tired and found it difficult to concentrate for a period of time during recovery.

Returning to education and/or work too early, or too energetically, can be overwhelming. Phased returns can be helpful. 

If available, follow up care with appropriate health professionals, specialist or support networks after meningitis is really important.  Please ask about these at discharge or speak with your doctor.

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