Meningitis

Meninges, or protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, that can become inflamed due to meningitis.

Meningitis is an infection of the tissues and fluid around the brain. It can be caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus and can be life threatening.

common questions

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

Babies with meningitis may initially “just not act right” exhibiting symptoms that may be subtle like poor feeding and increased sleepiness or irritability. Babies may develop fever, or become cold. They may look clammy, pale, and produce less wet diapers. Eventually babies may become unresponsive, have seizures and stop breathing.

How is meningitis diagnosed?

In addition to an ill appearing infant, and often blood tests that suggest possible infection, meningitis is diagnosed with a lumbar puncture. A lumbar puncture is a sterile procedure where a needle is placed into the middle of the back, below the spinal cord, and a sample of fluid that surrounds the spine and brain (called cerebrospinal fluid) is tested for infection. The fluid will be tested to see what types of cells are in it. If there is a lot of white blood cells, then an infection is likely. It will also be cultured to see if anything is growing in it. The culture takes up to five days to turn positive but typically becomes positive within 48 hours if there is an infection. A few viruses can also be tested for separately on the CSF and typically takes a couple of days for results to return.

What if my baby has meningitis?

Viral meningitis is treated by simply supporting your baby’s needs until their body clears the infection, and typically has a better recovery than fungal or bacterial meningitis. A fungal or bacterial infection requires a long course of intravenous (IV) antifungal or antibiotic therapy through a “central line” (which is a long IV catheter placed with it’s end in a large vein in the body). A repeat lumbar puncture may be needed to prove that the infection is gone and head imaging (like a MRI) may also be needed. Such an infection is very serious and can result in sever disabilities and even death.

A neonatologist is available 24/7 for referral and case consultation

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