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Meningitis in Children (cont.)

What Are Medications for Meningitis in Children?

  • Antibiotics may be given early in treatment of meningitis to help fight the infection as quickly as possible. The type of antibiotic depends on the child's age and any known allergies. Antibiotics are not helpful for viral meningitis.
  • Steroids may be given to help minimize inflammation depending on which organism is suspected to be causing the infection.
  • More aggressive medications may be necessary depending on the severity of the child's illness.

In general, the Infectious Diseases Society recommends vancomycin plus ceftriaxone or cefotaxime IV be used; the extent (time span) of treatment may vary with the bacterial species being treated. The treatment may vary from about seven to 21 or more days.

Fungal or parasitic infections require special drugs to treat these relatively rare infections and usually are managed by infectious disease specialists.

Noninfectious causes of meningitis, which are rare, are treated according to the underlying problem(s) such as cancer, drug-induced, or surgical problems.

What Is the Follow-up for Meningitis in Children?

If a child is sent home from the emergency department or hospital, a follow-up visit should be arranged with the doctor within 24 hours of the child's release. If the child's condition does not improve or worsens, an immediate return to the emergency department is warranted.

How Can You Prevent Meningitis in Children?

Specific vaccines are available to protect and reduce the chances of developing both the bacterial and viral types of meningitis. The antibacterial vaccines include Hib, meningococcal, and pneumococcal and the antiviral vaccines include influenza, varicella, polio, measles, and mumps. Two tables show the CDC recommended vaccines for infants and children up to age 18 as of 2014 (most recent available) that include those that protect or reduce the chances for certain bacterial and viral meningitis infections and other infections. For details, please see the two tables found at these two CDC sites listed below:

For details on the above two tables, pleases see the following link to the CDC site:

Vaccines against Hib and S. pneumoniae have markedly reduced the number of infected children. Also, if a child has not obtained vaccination against N. meningitidis, in some states they will not be allowed to attend college classes until they prove they are vaccinated.

Antibiotics are given to all intimate contacts of a child with meningococcal meningitis, a very specific type of bacterial meningitis. These intimate contacts may include family members, friends, health-care workers, and even day-care or nursery contacts. Adults can contract this type of meningitis and become carriers of these bacteria. If adults have been given preventive antibiotics and then become sick or develop any symptoms, they need a full medical evaluation. Preventive antibiotics are not needed for cases of viral meningitis or with other types of bacterial meningitis except for some relatives or caregivers who are caring for patients with Hib infections.

Vaccine side effects vary from none to transient pain or discomfort at the inoculation site. Some children may develop a mild fever, headache, and feel tired. In most individuals who get these side effects, Tylenol can reduce the discomfort. These effects rarely last more than 24 hours. Infrequently, some children may develop more severe allergic reactions (swelling, short of breath, Guillain-Barré syndrome); these individuals should not be given vaccine. Consultation with a pediatric specialist (allergy and/or infectious disease) is recommended.

What Is the Prognosis of Meningitis in Children?

The prognosis for any type of meningitis depends on the exact cause and severity of infection. At the time of initial treatment and diagnosis, a doctor may not be able to tell a person the exact prognosis and possible recovery outlook.

  • Bacterial meningitis can rapidly progress within hours and end in death despite the most advanced medical care. If a child survives a severe case of bacterial meningitis, the child may have long-term disabilities, including visual troubles, hearing difficulty, seizures, paralysis, and decreased mental function.
  • In very mild cases of bacterial meningitis that are treated early, a child may completely recover over the course of a few weeks with rehabilitation.
  • Viral meningitis tends to be a much less severe infection and normally can be treated at home on an outpatient basis. Most children with viral meningitis get better within two weeks.

Medically reviewed by Joseph Carcione, DO; American board of Psychiatry and Neurology


Muller, Martha L. "Pediatric Bacterial Meningitis." Jan. 30, 2014. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningitis." Apr. 1, 2014. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Meningococcal Disease: Help Prevent It." May 18, 2011. <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2012 Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedules." Feb. 6, 2012. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/17/2016

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