Meningitis In Toddlers: What Parents Should Know?

Meningitis can affect anyone, but it is most common in babies, toddlers, young children and teenagers. Meningitis in toddlers can be very serious if not treated quickly. Read on to know more about Meningitis.

What Is Meningitis In Toddlers?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It usually occurs when bacteria enter through the nose or throat. Meningitis is a bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling.

What Causes Meningitis In Toddlers?

Bacterial meningitis is caused by infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal) bacteria. Viral meningitis is caused mainly by one of three viruses: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1), human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6), or varicella zoster virus (VZV). However, cancer, injuries, certain drugs, and other types of infections also can cause meningitis.

Different Types Of Meningitis:

Bacterial Meningitis:

These Bacterial meningitis usually occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream through the nose or throat. Bacterial meningococcal disease (BMD) is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord called the meninges. It is also known as bacterial meningitis because it is caused by bacteria. There are two main forms of BMD: acute and recurrent. Acute BMD is characterized by sudden onset of symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity or pain to light. Recurrent BMD is characterized by repeated episodes of BMD.

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Viral Meningitis:

Usually, Viral meningitis is milder than bacterial meningitis. However, some viral infections can cause serious complications. Viral meningitis is caused by viruses that affect the lining of the brain and spinal cord. If left untreated, viral meningitis can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system. Viral meningitis is caused mainly by three different viruses: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1), varicella zoster virus (VZV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). HSV1 is responsible for cold sores and shingles; VZV causes chickenpox; and CMV is associated with mononucleosis.

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Symptoms of Meningitis in Toddlers

Infants and toddlers are at highest risk for bacterial meningitis because their immune systems aren’t fully developed. They also tend to have a higher rate of complications. In addition, babies and toddlers often lack the ability to tell parents when they’re sick. These symptoms usually appear within 24 hours after infection begins. Meningitis symptoms in toddlers may vary depending on what causes this infection. Symptoms of Meningitis in toddlers include:

  1. Fever
  2. Stiff neck
  3. Irritability
  4. Headache
  5. Vomiting
  6. Sensitivity to light
  7. Seizures
  8. Confusion
  9. High-pitched cry
  10. Refusing to eat

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Who’s at Risk?

Children under 5 years old are more likely than older children to develop bacterial meningitis. This is because babies’ immune systems aren’t fully developed yet. Babies also tend to have fewer natural defenses against infections such as viral meningitis. The most serious complication is brain damage or death. Brain damage occurs when swelling blocks blood flow to the brain. This can lead to permanent disability or even death. Death is rare, occurring in less than 1% of cases. However, some people who survive with brain injury will need lifelong care.

Diagnosis Of Meningitis In Toddlers:

Your child may have tests such as:
Lumbar Puncture:
These Lumbar punctures is also called as spinal taps, are used to diagnose bacterial meningitis. This procedure involves inserting a needle into the lower back to remove cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It’s normally colorless and odorless. CSF contains cells and proteins produced by the body that help protect against infection. If there is a large number of white blood cells in the CSF, then this indicates bacterial meningitis.
Blood test
CT scan or MRI
Nasal, throat, or rectal swabs

Also Read: Home Remedies for Strep Throat in Toddlers

Treatment Options For Meningitis in Toddlers:

If your toddler has been diagnosed with meningitis, he or she will need treatment right away. This includes antibiotics and fluids. Antibiotics kill bacteria and viruses that cause infections. Fluid therapy helps replace lost fluid and maintain normal blood pressure.

Treatment includes antibiotics and supportive care. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition. Antibiotics should not be given to children younger than 2 years old because they do not work as well against bacteria in young children.

Usually, antibiotics are given as soon as possible after diagnosis. In addition to antibiotics, other treatments may also be needed. These treatments include:
• IV fluids to replace lost fluids and maintain normal body temperature
• Pain medication to relieve pain
• Anticonvulsant medications to prevent seizures
• Steroid medications to reduce inflammation
• Antipyretics to reduce fever
• Other medications to treat symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and irritability

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After meningitis treatment, the majority of kids will recover fully, however it can take some time. Meningitis may have certain side symptoms, such as generalised fatigue, frequent headaches, hearing issues, and mood fluctuations.

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Prevention Tips For Meningitis in Toddlers

  1. To prevent meningitis, parents should make sure their children receive vaccinations.
  2. Vaccines protect children by preventing diseases before they start spreading through the body.
  3. Children who are too young to receive vaccines should still be protected by getting regular checkups with their doctors.
  4. Wash your toddler’s hands regularly.

If you suspect your child has meningitis, call your doctor immediately.