There’s an increased risk for newborns when it comes to contracting meningitis, because their immune systems are still immature and developing. Here’s what you need to look out for if you suspect your baby has the infection.
Meningitis is caused by either a virus or bacteria, which infects and inflames the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes, the infection, if bacterial, can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Because serious cases of meningitis are more common in babies and young children, it’s vital that you can identify the early signs before they progress—especially since the symptoms tend to mimic the flu.
The MenB vaccine is available for babies, administered at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme. But because not every strain of bacteria and virus is accommodated in this vaccine—as well as the other vaccines, knowing the red flags is still imperative:
- A high temperature
- Clammy, pale skin
- Excessive sleepiness
- Not wanting to feed
- A bulging or tense fontanel (the soft spot on top of baby’s head)
- High-pitched shrieking or crying
- Cold hands and feet—even with a high temperature
- Purple rash that does not fade with pressure; use the tumbler test here —indicative of septicaemia, and not always evident in babies
- Neck stiffness and sensitivity to bright lights—rare in babies
These symptoms can manifest in any order, and rapidly—anything from a few hours to one or two days. If you suspect meningitis, but aren’t entirely sure, contact your medical practitioner immediately regardless. The signs often only show once the condition is advanced, and urgent treatment—strong antibiotics in hospital, and in more serious cases, intensive care with ventilation—is essential to save lives.