Meningitis in Children
Meningitis in Children Overview
Meningitis is a term used to describe an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain or the spinal cord. Meningitis, especially bacterial meningitis, is a potentially life-threatening condition that can rapidly progress to permanent brain damage, neurologic problems, and even death. Doctors need to diagnose and treat meningitis quickly to prevent or reduce any long-term effects.
- The inflammation causing meningitis is normally a direct result of either a bacterial infection or a viral infection. However, the inflammation can also be caused by more rare conditions, such as cancer, a drug reaction, a disease of the immune system or from other infectious agents such as fungi (cryptococcal meningitis) or parasites.
- Normally, meningitis causes fever, lethargy, and a decreased mental status (problems thinking), but these symptoms are often hard to detect in young children.
- If the infection or resulting inflammation progresses past the membranes of the brain or the spinal cord, then the process is called encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
- The highest incidence of meningitis is between birth and 2 years, with the greatest risk immediately following birth and at 3-8 months
of age. Increased exposure to infections and underlying immune system problems present at birth increase an
infant's risk of meningitis.
The focus of this article will be on the common infectious causes of meningitis as they account for the large majority of problems; however, less common causes will be presented.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2014
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