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Meningitis Symptoms

Symptoms of Childhood Illnesses


Updated June 11, 2014

Parents always seem to be worried about meningitis, so it is a good idea to review and learn about the symptoms of meningitis, both so that you don't worry unnecessarily when your child obviously doesn't have meningitis symptoms and also so that you recognize when he might.

Fortunately, a sore throat or sore neck, which are very common symptoms, are not usually signs or symptoms of meningitis.

Instead, the more classic sign of meningitis is a stiff neck.

This is why your pediatrician will often ask your child to look at the ceiling and down at his toes if he suspects that your child might have meningitis.

Meningitis Symptoms

In addition to a stiff neck, other common meningitis symptoms can include:
  • severe headache
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • irritability
  • seizures
  • mental status changes, such as lethargy, delirium, hallucinations, etc.
  • a bulging fontanel in infants whose fontanel or soft spot hasn't closed yet
  • a rash
Unfortunately, meningitis is sometimes hard to diagnose, and some children will not have classic symptoms and may just have a fever, headache, or irritability.

Meningitis Tests

If your pediatrician suspects that your child has meningitis, then he will likely do a lumbar puncture or spinal tap.

In addition to helping your pediatrician figure out if your child has meningitis, a spinal tap will determine if it is viral meningitis or bacterial meningitis, which is important, as they have very different treatments.

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