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Haresfield Surgery

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Meningitis and Septicaemia

Introduction – Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

This infection causes these membranes (the meninges) to become inflamed, which in some cases can damage the nerves and brain.

Signs and symptoms of meningitis

Anyone can get meningitis, but babies and young children under five years of age are most at risk. A baby or young child with meningitis may:

  • have a high fever, with cold hands and feet
  • vomit and refuse to feed
  • feel agitated and not want to be picked up
  • become drowsy, floppy and unresponsive
  • grunt or breathe rapidly
  • have an unusual high-pitched or moaning cry
  • have pale, blotchy skin, and a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • have a tense, bulging soft spot on their head (fontanelle)
  • have a stiff neck and dislike bright lights
  • have convulsions or seizures

The above symptoms can appear in any order, and some may not appear at all.

The rash can be harder to see on dark skin, in which case check for spots on paler areas like the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, on the tummy, inside the eyelids and on the roof of the mouth.

However, don’t wait for a rash to develop. If your child is unwell and getting worse, seek medical help immediately.

Meningitis symptom alert

Go to NHS Choices homepage

In older children, teenagers and adults, the symptoms of meningitis can include:

  • a fever, with cold hands and feet
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness and difficulty waking up
  • confusion and irritability
  • severe muscle pain
  • pale, blotchy skin, and a distinctive rash (although not everyone will have this)
  • a severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • convulsion or seizures

Again, these symptoms can appear in any order, and not everyone will get all of them.

Don’t wait for a rash to develop. Seek immediate medical help if someone is unwell and displays the symptoms of meningitis.

Introduction – Septicaemia (Septic Shock)

Septic shock is a life-threatening condition that happens when your blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level after an infection.

Any type of bacteria can cause the infection. Fungi, such as candida, and viruses can also be a cause, although this is rare.

At first, the infection can lead to a reaction called sepsis. This begins with weakness, chills, and a rapid heart and breathing rate.

Left untreated, toxins produced by bacteria can damage the small blood vessels, causing them to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues. This can affect your heart’s ability to pump blood to your organs which lowers your blood pressure and means blood doesn’t reach vital organs, such as the brain and liver.

People with a weakened immune system have and increased risk of developing septic shock. This includes:

  • newborn babies
  • elderly people
  • pregnant women
  • people with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, cirrhosis or kidney failure
  • people with lowered immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS or those receiving chemotherapy

Symptoms of septic shock

Symptoms of septic shock include:

  • low blood pressure (hypotension) that makes you feel dizzy when you stand up
  • a change in your mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cold, clammy and pale skin

Septic shock is a medical emergency. Dial 999 to ask for an ambulance if you think that you or someone in your care has septic shock.

Meningitis and Septicaemia – The Facts

Immunisations Available at the Surgery

Babies Aged 2 Months

The Meningitis B Immunisation programme started on the 1st September 2015 for babies aged 2 months, i.e. Babies born on or after 1st July 2015. There was a limited cath-up programme for babies born on or after 1st May 2015. The routine schedule is for immunisation to be given at 2 and 4 months for the primaries, with a booster at 12 months.

Teenagers Aged 17 – 19

Meningitis ACWY is offered to teenagers aged 17-19 who will be going to University. Please book in with one of our nurses for this vaccination. Further information click here.