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Meningitis in Adults (cont.)

What Is the Treatment for Meningitis in Adults?

Hospitalization for meningitis depends on the cause.

If you appear to have viral meningitis, treatment is usually less aggressive and consists of measures to make you more comfortable. Viral meningitis is often treated at home with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and other pain medications. Antibiotics are not helpful in treating viral meningitis.

If you have bacterial or fungal meningitis, you are often admitted to the intensive-care unit, for either a short period of observation or a longer period if you are more ill. Care of bacterial meningitis begins by ensuring that your breathing and blood pressure are adequate.

  • An IV line is inserted and fluids are given.
  • You are placed on a heart monitor.
  • Intravenous antibiotics may be given.

Steroids may be given to try to decrease the severity of the disease.

  • If you are extremely ill, more aggressive medical care may be given.
  • A breathing tube (intubation) may be inserted to help with breathing.
  • Larger IV lines may be inserted in the groin, the chest, or the neck. Medications may be given to improve blood pressure and to stop seizures.
  • A tube (catheter) may be placed in the bladder to check your hydration (or fluid status).

If the diagnosis is uncertain, or if you have recently been on antibiotics, you may be admitted to the hospital for observation and treatment until the diagnosis is certain. This may require another spinal tap in 12-24 hours for reevaluation.

How Do People Transmit Meningitis?

Bacterial and viral meningitis can be spread to others, however both viral and bacterial meningitis are not as contagious as colds or the flu.

  • Transmission of meningitis requires close contact with respiratory droplets or saliva such as through kissing, sneezing, or coughing.
    • Sharing drinks, utensils, or toothbrushes with an infected patient can also lead to transmission.
    • Sharing a cigarette theoretically may lead to transmission also.
  • Simply being in the same room with someone with meningitis is not enough to transmit the disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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