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Learning About Bacterial Meningitis in Children


Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord. This serious infection can injure the brain. It can cause death.

Symptoms usually develop suddenly. A baby may be cranky, cry when moved, and arch their back. A young child may have a severe headache and refuse to eat. An older child will also have a stiff neck. Fever is common at all ages. Your child will be in the hospital for testing and treatment.

How long it takes your child to get better depends on how bad the illness is. It can take from just a couple of weeks to many months. You may notice a change in how your child thinks or concentrates. Most children with these symptoms get better over time. Be patient. And follow your doctor's instructions.

How is it treated?

Treatment takes place in the hospital. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection.
  • Medicines to treat other symptoms, such as fever and muscle aches, pressure on the brain, and seizures, if they occur.
  • Help with breathing. Your child may have a tube down the throat that is attached to a machine (ventilator).
  • Fluids or nutrition through a vein (I.V.).
  • Supportive care. Your child will be watched carefully to help prevent serious problems such as hearing loss, seizures, and brain damage.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

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