Symptoms Checker

Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours - know the symptoms.

The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.

Septicaemia can occur with or without meningitis. Not everyone gets all the symptoms and they can appear in any order.

Red ticks show symptoms more specific to meningitis and septicaemia and less common in milder illnesses.

Symptoms
Septicaemia
Meningitis
Fever and/or Vomiting
Meningitis
Severe headache
Meningitis
Limb/joint/muscle pain (sometimes with stomach pain/diarrhoea)
Septicaemia
Cold hand and feet/shivering
Septicaemia
Pale or mottled skin
Septicaemia
Breathing fast/breathless
Septicaemia
Rash (anywhere on the body)
Septicaemia,
Meningitis
Stiff neck (less common in young children)
Meningitis
Dislike of bright lights (less common in young children)
Meningitis
Very sleepy /vacant /difficult to wake
Septicaemia,
Meningitis
Confused /delirious
Septicaemia,
Meningitis
Seizures (fits) may also be seen
Meningitis

What are meningitis and septicaemia?

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – the meninges. Septicaemia is blood poisoning caused by the same germs and is the more life threatening form of the disease. Septicaemia can occur with or without meningitis.

What should I do if I am worried about someone who is ill?

Trust your instincts. Someone who has meningitis or septicaemia could become seriously ill very quickly. Get medical help immediately if you suspect meningitis or septicaemia - it's a race against time.

The tumbler test

If you are seriously worried about someone who is ill, don’t wait for a rash to appear – get medical help. But if they are already ill and get a new rash or spots, use the Tumbler Test.

Press a clear glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If you can see the marks clearly through the glass seek urgent medical help immediately.

Check the entire body. Look out for tiny red or brown pin-prick marks which can change into larger red or purple blotches and blood blisters.

The darker the skin the harder it is to see a septicaemic rash so check lighter areas like the palms of hands and soles of feet or look inside the eyelids and the roof of the mouth.

Remember, a very ill person needs medical help even if there are only a few spots, a rash or no rash at all.

If you have any concerns please ring the freephone helpline.

UK 080 8800 3344

ROI 1800 41 33 44

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More information for...

Is your baby getting worse fast? Babies can get ill very quickly, so check often.
Meningitis & septicaemia are higher risks for young children. The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell.
Young people and students are the next most at-risk group. Don’t assume an illness is a hangover or a touch of flu.

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