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Meningitis is an infection of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Anyone can get meningitis, whatever age they are, but babies and young children under five are most at risk.

Meningitis can be very serious. If you suspect meningitis you must call 999 or 112 immediately, so they can get to hospital to be treated as soon as possible.

If spotted early, and treated quickly, most people make a full recovery.

Watch our video - Meningitis

What to look for - Meningitis

If someone has meningitis, they won’t usually show all the symptoms and signs at the same time. But these are the key things to look for:

• flu-like illness with a temperature

• cold hands and feet

• joint and limb pain

• blotchy or very pale skin

As the meningitis infection develops:

• severe headache

• neck stiffness

• vomiting

• eyes become sensitive to light

• drowsiness

• in babies – high-pitched moaning or a whimpering cry, floppiness, and a tense, bulging soft spot on their head (fontanelle).

Later you may see a distinctive rash of red or purple spots that doesn’t fade when pressed.

What you need to do - Meningitis

• If someone has any of the signs of meningitis, like shielding their eyes from the light, call 999 or 112 for emergency medical help straight away and treat the fever.

• Check to see if they have a rash, with most rashes if you press the spots with the side of a glass, the spots will fade – if they don’t fade, call 999 or 112 for medical help at once.

• While you’re waiting for help to arrive, reassure them and keep them cool.

• Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.

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