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Meningitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

05 September, 2020 Richa Tiwari

There are many diseases related to the brain about which people rarely know about. When the problem starts disrupting their daily life then only people realize that there is something wrong with them. One such disease is meningitis. Some people should have heard about it but they don’t know why and how it happens. 

So, here we are presenting to you this awareness article regarding all about meningitis, how and why it develops, what you can do to prevent yourself from it.

What is Meningitis?

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Meningitis can be defined as the swelling or inflammation in the protective membranes (meninges) that cover the brain and the spinal cord. The swelling caused by meningitis set off symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, and fever. In most of the cases, the cause of swelling is either the bacterial or viral infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Certain injuries, infections, cancer, and drugs can also cause meningitis. The type of treatment will depend on the cause of meningitis. While some cases of meningitis improve without treatment in the span of some weeks, some require critical attention as they can prove to be life-threatening. Severe cases require emergency antibiotic treatment.  However, in any type of case whether critical or not seeking immediate medical care always do good and will prevent you from serious complications in the future.

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Symptoms of Meningitis

In the beginning, symptoms may look like influenza and then they develop over hours or within a few days. 

For anyone who is older than 2 years of age: 

  • Stiff neck
  • Sudden high fever
  • Abnormal severe headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness, difficulty in waking up
  • Loss of appetite
  • Light sensitivity
  • Skin rashes

Symptoms of newborns include:

  • High fever
  • Crying constantly
  • Excessive sleepiness or irritability
  • Inactivity or sluggishness
  • Poor feeding
  • On the top of a baby’s head, a bulge can appear
  • Stiffness in baby’s whole body

Causes of Meningitis

The most common cause of meningitis are viral infections, then bacterial infections, and, rarely, fungal infections. But bacterial infections can sometimes prove to be life-threatening, so identifying the reason behind it is essential.

  1. Bacterial Meningitis: This is the most dangerous form and requires immediate medical attention. Hopefully, some vaccines are available to help protect against some types of bacterial meningitis.
  2. Viral Meningitis: These are also serious but less perilous than bacterial. People who have a strong or even normal functioning immune system, often get better on their own. Vaccines are available for this also.
  3. Fungal Meningitis: It is rarely found, and is caused by inhaling fungal spores from the nearby environment. People who are suffering from HIV, diabetes, or cancer are at higher risk of getting it.
  4. Parasitic Meningitis: Some parasites are also responsible for causing meningitis. It affects the brain in other ways but it is very very rare as compared to other types. 
  5. Amebic Meningitis: Caused by Naegleria fowleri, it is a rare but devastating infection of the brain. This amoeba lives in water and soil.
  6. Non-Infectious Meningitis: This contains factors like skipping vaccinations, age, living in communities like dormitories, military bases, pregnancy,  and a weak immune system.

Treatment and Prevention of Meningitis

You can follow these steps to prevent meningitis:

  • Wash your hands: Washing hands prevent the spread of germs. So, teach your kids to wash their hands at regular intervals especially before eating anything, after using the toilet, caressing their pet animals, and after coming back from crowded places.
  • Practice good hygiene: Do not eat, drink food with the same spoon or same straw. Sharing is good but hygiene is more important these are not the things to be shared.  
  • Stay healthy: Make your immune system stronger. Do some physical exercises daily, practice yoga and meditation, eat healthily.
  • Cover your mouth: Whenever you require to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose to prevent the spreading of germs.
  • During Pregnancy, take care of the food: Avoid unpasteurized milk in any form and use pasteurized milk products. Cook food properly and don’t eat raw food.

Some Vaccinations that are helpful in preventing bacterial meningitis:

  • Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine

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With some awareness and prevention, you can prevent yourself from meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe form but can be prevented by some immunizations.