What are the Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can develop rapidly and include:

  • High Fever: Bacterial meningitis often begins with a sudden and high fever.
  • Severe Headache: Intense, throbbing headache is a common symptom.
  • Stiff Neck: A stiff neck is a hallmark sign of meningitis. Individuals may have difficulty bending the neck forward, as bending it can cause pain.
  • Photophobia: Sensitivity to light, which can result in discomfort when exposed to bright lights.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are frequent symptoms.
  • Mental Confusion: Confusion, irritability, and altered mental state can occur. In severe cases, it can progress to delirium or even coma.
  • Seizures: Some individuals may experience seizures.
  • Skin Rash: In some cases, a red or purple rash may appear, which does not fade when pressed (petechiae). This is more common in certain types of bacterial meningitis, like meningococcal meningitis.
  • Bulging Fontanel (in Infants): In infants, the soft spot on the top of the head (fontanel) may appear bulging.
  • Poor Feeding and High-Pitched Crying (in Infants): Infants with meningitis may have difficulties feeding and may exhibit a high-pitched or moaning cry.
  • Cold Hands and Feet: Hands and feet may feel unusually cold.

It’s important to recognize that the symptoms of bacterial meningitis can vary among individuals and may resemble other infections or illnesses. Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency, and prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent serious complications, such as brain damage or death. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms suggestive of bacterial meningitis, seek immediate medical attention. The condition is typically diagnosed through a combination of clinical evaluation, lumbar puncture (spinal tap), and laboratory tests. Treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care, which may include hospitalization. The choice of antibiotics depends on the specific bacteria causing the infection, which may require laboratory testing for identification.