Bacterial Meningitis: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation
The brain, normal and with inflammation

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 you to get better depends on how bad the illness is. It can take from just a couple of weeks to many months. You may have changes in how you think or concentrate. Most people with these symptoms get better over time. Be patient. Follow your doctor's instructions.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) for pain or fever. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take 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.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Talk with your doctor about any new symptoms that develop, such as changes in your hearing or trouble concentrating.
  • Be sure that anyone who has come into close contact with you during this illness calls a doctor if he or she feels sick.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have a seizure.

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

  • Your symptoms come back or get worse. These may include:
    • A fever.
    • A severe headache.
    • A stiff neck.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
  • You have trouble thinking or concentrating.

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

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter M535 in the search box to learn more about "Bacterial Meningitis: Care Instructions".