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Viral Meningitis in Children: Care Instructions

The brain

Your Care Instructions

Viral meningitis is an illness that causes inflammation in the tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord. It's not the same as bacterial meningitis. The viral illness is often milder.

Your child may have had a lumbar puncture test (spinal tap). This test helps the doctor find out what is causing your child's symptoms. These often include a bad headache, a fever, and a stiff neck.

Most people get better without treatment in a few weeks. But some people may feel weak and tired for months after the illness.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

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?

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. Have your child stay in bed if you can.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • To prevent dehydration, have your child drink plenty of fluids, enough so that his or her urine is light yellow or clear like water. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids until your child feels better. If your child has to limit fluids because of a health problem, talk with your doctor before you increase how much your child drinks.
  • If your child has had a lumbar puncture test (spinal tap):
    • Your child may be told to lie flat in bed or with his or her head slightly raised for 1 to 2 hours. This is to keep the headache from getting worse.
    • Your child may feel tired and have a slight backache the day after the test. Some people have trouble sleeping for 1 or 2 days.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often to prevent spreading the infection to others.

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 has a fever.
  • Your child has a severe headache.
  • Your child has a stiff neck.
  • Your child is nauseated or is vomiting.
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.

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

  • You notice new numbness or weakness in your child.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter U927 in the search box to learn more about "Viral Meningitis in Children: Care Instructions".

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.