- Management of children with early stages of bacterial meningitis could be improved, according to a new report
- National guidelines recommend doctors give parents ‘safety netting’ information if sending home a child with suspected infection – report shows this does not always happen
- Charity is calling for an audit of the guidelines to improve rapid meningitis diagnosis and treatment
Lives could be saved if parents are given consistent, explicit advice about recognising meningitis and septicaemia (otherwise known as sepsis) from health professionals, according to a new report from the charity Meningitis Research Foundation.
The report, launched at the start of Meningitis Awareness Week, says almost a third (30%) of young babies with bacterial meningitis receive inappropriate early treatment which delays parents seeking further help, and around half (49%) of children who have meningococcal infection - the most common cause of bacterial meningitis - are sent home after their first visit to a GP and not admitted to hospital.
This is because the early signs of meningitis and sepsis are often similar to the symptoms of less serious illnesses, making these serious conditions very difficult to spot at first.
National clinical guidelines recommend that doctors listen to parents concerns because they know their child best, and recommend that 'safety netting' information is given to parents or carers of sick children with suspected infection before they are sent home.
This should include information about meningitis and sepsis and tell parents to return for medical help if they feel their child’s symptoms do not improve or are getting worse. In reality this information is not always give.
Most children with meningococcal meningitis or septicaemia display only non-specific symptoms in the first 4-6 hours of illness but can be dead within 24 hours.
The report includes a summary of personal accounts of over 100 parents whose children had meningitis but were sent home after their first visit to a health professional.
In one study the report highlights, examples of inappropriate advice given to parents included, being told that their child’s fever was due to a change in milk formula, or where prune juice was recommended for fever and irritability.