If you have a child under five years old, you need to be aware of meningitis and septicaemia. Why? Because children in this age group are more at risk than older children and adults.
Meningococcal disease is the leading cause of meningitis amongst children in the UK and Ireland. This bug kills more children under five than any other infectious disease. Even children who survive may be left with life-changing disabilities, from learning difficulties and behavioural problems to hearing loss and amputations.
Fortunately, most children have natural resistance to the bugs that cause meningitis and septicaemia, and vaccines give excellent protection against many forms. But not all forms can be prevented, so it’s very important that everyone is aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. These symptoms can be hard to recognise, especially in small children who get lots of minor illnesses with similar symptoms and can’t explain how they are feeling.
But meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours, so always trust your instincts and get urgent medical help.
Meningitis and septicaemia: the symptoms to look out for
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.
In young children, the first symptoms of meningitis are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than a rash, neck stiffness and dislike of bright lights and confusion.