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Bacterial Meningitis in Children: Care Instructions

The brain

Your Care Instructions

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord. This serious infection can injure the brain. It can be life-threatening.

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.

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 call line 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.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), for pain or fever. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Talk with your doctor about any new symptoms that develop, such as changes in your child's hearing or trouble concentrating.
  • Be sure that anyone who has come into close contact with your child during this illness calls a doctor if he or she feels sick.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's symptoms return or get worse. These may include:
    • A fever.
    • A severe headache.
    • A stiff neck.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Your child has trouble thinking or concentrating.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.