Meningitis is an infection that attacks the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord called the meninges. When meningitis occurs, it may be a somewhat mild viral infection or a much more serious bacterial infection, though the symptoms for each are very similar. Because the symptoms are so alike in the different types of meningitis, symptoms should be addressed in an emergency room right away. Early treatment of bacterial meningitis can be lifesaving, and early treatment of viral meningitis may greatly reduce the chances of complications and shorten the length of the illness.
Meningitis is most common in children and adults under the age of 30. It may present sudden symptoms of fever, stiff neck, rapid breathing, decreased alertness, sensitivity to light, and severe headache. Since these symptoms may be present in bacterial and viral meningitis, you should always seek care for yourself or your child when they appear.
Exams and diagnosis
When you visit the ER with symptoms of meningitis , an examination and spinal fluid sample will be used to determine if meningitis is present. Early diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is the most reliable way to prevent neurological damage and reduce the chances of death resulting from this condition.
Viral meningitis often clears up on its own within about two weeks, but bacterial meningitis requires immediate treatment with antibiotics. There are also some vaccinations that protect against certain forms of meningitis, and these are recommended for children between ages 11 and 12, college freshmen living in dorms, and individuals traveling to other countries where meningitis is more common.
With the kid-friendly ER at Sunrise Children’s Hospital , you will always have a place to turn when healthcare emergencies like meningitis arise. To see the current wait times in our ER, visit our website or call our Consult-A-Nurse healthcare referral line at (702) 233-5437.