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Meningitis | The early signs and symptoms

This week is Meningitis Week. To help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis in children and young adults, we've teamed up with some notable sports personalities, journalists and specialists from GSK's Cotton-on to Meningitis: Let’s Tackle it Together campaign.

I'll be honest with you here - after our sons were vaccinated against the most deadly forms of the disease, I hadn't really given any thought to meningitis. It's so easy to assume that because they've been vaccinated, they're in the clear, right? Wrong.

I was as surprised as you will be to hear, according to experts, there are five main groups, or meningococcal strains in the UK - A, B, C, W and Y. Vaccines are available to protect against some of the strains, however, no single vaccine protects against all strains. Also, meningitis can affect children and young adults right through childhood, up to the age of 22+.

Sam's story

Last year, our twelve year old nephew Sam contracted viral meningitis during a family trip to Malta. I spoke to Aunty Katie this morning to find out more about the traumatic events that led to Sam's diagnosis and recovery.

Our nephew, Sam contracted viral meningitis in 2017
Our nephew, Sam contracted viral meningitis in 2017

"During the first nights of our holiday to Malta, Samuel suffered really bad headaches, some becoming so painful he

was sick. During the day he was a little weak but generally ok so we didn't suspect anything serious. The following day and night, Samuel had to stay in a dark room as his headache pain was severe. He couldn’t keep any food or drink down. It was at this stage I detected something was unusually wrong with Samuel so we took him to A&E. He was immediately diagnosed with meningitis and admitted to hospital.

That evening Samuel deteriorated quickly - he couldn’t bend his neck which apparently is a typical symptom and he was in extreme pain. We were so scared.

Samuel had an emergency lumber puncture and fluids from a drip. Test results showed Samuel had meningitis but we had to wait for the culture to grow to see which type - this took about five days. Meanwhile, doctors administered a strong antibiotic incase it was bacterial, which it turned out not to be.

All doctors could do was try to manage the pain in Samuel's head and back. The lumber puncture takes liquid from the spine to test which added to the pain in his head. In total Samuel was in hospital for ten days and recovered a month later."

Early signs and symptoms

The majority of parents believe a rash, dislike of bright lights and stiff neck are the early signs and symptoms of meningitis.

These are important indicators of the disease but typically appear later - or not at all.

To rule out meningitis, you should seek immediate medical assistance if your child experiences a mixture of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Muscle pain

  • Cold hands and feet

For more information, I urge you to visit the Tackle Meningitis website via this link.


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