Meningitis is an uncommon disease that can be due to viruses or bacteria. When the virus is the cause, you usually recover completely after a few weeks without any treatment. However, meningitis caused by bacteria is a serious disease that needs prompt hospital care.

Between the head bone and the brain is a cavity containing fluid. Around the cavity are the so-called meninges. Those membranes become inflamed if you get meningitis. The disease is also called meningitis.

Meningitis should not be confused with encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain itself.

The most common symptoms of meningitis are the same whether the disease is caused by viruses or bacteria. When the cause is a virus, the symptoms are usually milder.

However, meningitis caused by bacteria often produces much more severe symptoms.

Common symptoms of meningitis are

  • headache
  • nausea
  • fever
  • neck stiffness
  • sensitivity to sound and light.

If you get meningitis, headaches usually come quickly. The headaches can feel different and more powerful than they usually feel when you have a headache.

Usually, you get sick in two rounds

Viruses are the most common cause of meningitis. It is usually a common virus called an enterovirus. If you are infected with enterovirus, it is common for you to become ill in two rounds.

Then you can first get symptoms such as fever, sore throat, muscle pain, nausea or stomach pain and diarrhea. One or a few weeks later, you get meningitis. Once you get meningitis, the fever and headaches usually disappear within seven to ten days. You may have difficulty concentrating for another few weeks.

Bacterial meningitis comes quickly

If the disease is caused by bacteria, you often become seriously ill within a day.

Then you can also get symptoms like

  • convulsions
  • unconsciousness
  • dizziness and lack of energy due to low blood pressure
  • bleeding in the skin that looks like red rashes or bruises.

Meningitis in children

The symptoms of young children who develop meningitis can be unclear. In children under one year, the fontanelle can become tense and bulging. The fontanelle is the space between the head bones of the head, which has not yet grown together and is covered by a strong membrane. The Fontanella sits upon the head, just above the hairline. You can feel with your finger that it is tense and curves. The head can also be bent backward.

Young children do not always get a fever

Children who are younger than three months do not always get high fever in meningitis. This applies regardless of whether the disease is caused by viruses or bacteria. Instead, children may have gray-skinned skin and rub and whine. They can also suck worse when breastfeeding or feeding.

When should I seek care?

Seek medical care directly at an emergency room if you or a relative

  • feel very ill
  • get seizures
  • becoming unconscious or confused
  • get the fever and severe headache
  • get fever and bleeding in the skin that looks like red rashes or bruises.

This is how meningitis infects

The most common cause of the disease is that you get an infection in the body that is caused by viruses or bacteria. But it is unusual for you to get meningitis even if you have been infected by viruses or bacteria.

Viruses that can cause meningitis

Of those infected with enteroviruses, only a few receive meningitis. There is no way to prevent it.

The herpes virus that is the most common cause of herpes in the genital area can also cause meningitis. Sometimes repeatedly. Herpes virus can be treated with antiviral drugs.

Meningitis can also be caused by mumps and measles, but it is unusual. Both diseases are part of the general vaccination program for children.

Bacteria that can cause meningitis

When meningitis is caused by bacteria, borrelia is the most common cause. Borrelia infects, among other things, through tick bites. If you get meningitis due to Velcro bacteria then you will not be as seriously ill as when the cause is other bacteria. However, it can take a long time to fully recover.

Meningitis can also be caused by pneumococcal or meningococcal bacteria. It is very unusual, but then the disease becomes much more serious. Meningitis due to meningococcal is also called epidemic meningitis. You can carry on so-called meningococcal bacteria without getting sick yourself. Relatives of a person who gets the disease are therefore usually given antibiotics for preventive purposes so that they do not also get sick or spread the disease to others.

Other causes of meningitis

In some cases, meningitis can be caused by rheumatic diseases.

What can I do for myself?

In meningitis, headaches can be severe. It can be nice to lie down and rest in a dark and quiet room.


You can take painkillers containing paracetamol to reduce fever and relieve headaches. For example, Alvedon or Panodil.

Treatment of Meningitis

Meningitis caused by viruses is not treated because antibiotics do not help the virus. An exception is if the cause is a herpes virus. It is treated with antiviral drugs, which prevent the virus from spreading in the body.

You can get antibiotics directly into your bloodstream

Brain meningitis due to bacteria should be treated as soon as possible, to reduce the risk of future complications. You are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics directly into your bloodstream. Either by drip or by syringes. A high concentration of antibiotics is required to remove the bacteria. Therefore, tablets are not enough.

If you have meningitis due to Lyme disease, it is enough that you as an adult receive antibiotics in tablet form. Children who are eight years or older receive the same treatment for meningitis as adults. In contrast, children younger than eight years of age receive antibiotics directly into the bloodstream, even when meningitis is due to larynx.


The doctor does a thorough body examination and listens to the heart, examines if you are stiff in the neck, looks for bleeding in the skin and assesses how you feel in general. If you lie down on your back, you feel resistance when the doctor tries to bend your head against your chest. Often you cannot put your chin against your chest if you are sitting with straight legs in bed.

Spinal fluid tests show if you have the disease

To find out if you have meningitis, take a spinal fluid test , also called lumbar puncture. The fluid present in the spinal cord and brain cavity is analyzed to see if the disease is due to viruses or bacteria.

Sometimes a blood test is also taken to make the correct diagnosis.


Most people who get meningitis due to viruses are completely healthy.

Meningitis caused by bacteria can in some cases cause a person to die. The disease can also cause complications such as hearing impairment, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.

Ehtisham Nadeem

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