Symptoms Checker for Toddlers

Meningitis and septicaemia - higher risk for young children.

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.

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

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

Other signs in Toddlers

  • Tense or bulging soft spot on their head

  • Refusing to feed

  • Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry

  • A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless

  • Fever is often absent in babies less than three months of age

Things to remember

  • Don't wait for the rash as it doesn't always appear

  • Not everyone gets all of these symptoms

  • Symptoms can appear in any order

  • Septicemia can occur with or without meningitis.

  • Your know your child best; check on them often, trust your instincts and act fast

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.

Meningitis tumbler/glass test showing rash on child's leg

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.

Meningitis rash on legs of child

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.

Meningitis rash on dark skin of child

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

Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours - know the symptoms. The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell.
Is your baby getting worse fast? Babies can get ill very quickly, so check often.
Young people and students are the next most at-risk group. Don’t assume an illness is a hangover or a touch of flu.
The rash does not always appears in cases of meningitis, and the word ‘rash’ itself may be misleading. So, what actually is it?
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Membership and support

The MRF Membership and Support team are here for you for any questions you might have about meningitis and septicaemia and their effects on you, or your family and friends.

Tel: Helpline UK 080 8800 3344 Ireland 1800 41 33 44