There have been commercials on television recently showing what life is like for a child before they contract meningitis. Many people don’t even consider this to be a possibility and don’t realize the dangers of meningitis. What is it and what are the risks associated with it?

Meningitis, an infection of the fluid around the brain and in the spine, can be a very serious condition. At times it is deadly. Many people are still unaware of this condition and how dangerous it can be. The condition can develop rapidly, often within just a few hours of being around someone with meningitis, or it can take up to two days.

There are two forms of meningitis: bacterial and viral. Neither is a good condition to have, but bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage and even death. Many symptoms of meningitis are similar to other illnesses – nausea, headache, high fever, and vomiting – so a parent might mistake them for something else. However, add the symptoms of being very sensitive to light and having a stiff neck, and an immediate trip to the doctor is in order to get diagnosis and treatment.

While bacterial meningitis can be treated successfully with antibiotics, it can’t be treated without an early diagnosis. Diagnosis is made by inserting a needle into the spine and removing a small amount of fluid from around the spine. This spinal tap will provide the necessary medium to make an accurate diagnosis.

Meningitis, or at least some forms of it, can easily transmitted by coughing or kissing. You can also get meningitis by sharing a drinking glass or sharing items which have been in or around the mouth. This could be lipstick, cigarettes, or eating after one another.

How do you know if you or your child has viral meningitis or the more serious form of bacterial meningitis? Only a doctor will be able make that determination. The symptoms are similar, which is why it’s so important to see a doctor when you or your child develops them. You may not need the same level of care when having the milder form, but if treatment isn’t started immediately with the bacterial form, the person could develop brain damage, have a stroke, or possibly die.

Many people think meningitis is a condition reserved for children and teens. However, anyone can get meningitis although it is often spread among children and teens because they’re more likely to share items. There is a vaccine available for children and many parents choose this option.

Vaccines provide protection against meningitis and there are two types available. One is designed for people between the ages of 2 to 55. The other version is available for people over the age of 55. The vaccines will not provide life-long protection but will last up to eight years. That’s why most doctors recommend being vaccinated when the likelihood of contracting the condition is highest.

Treatment includes antibiotic treatment which is effective 90% of the time. Obviously, the sooner treatment is administered, the better the chance of a full recovery. If they determine viral meningitis is the culprit, treatment can be as simple as treating a cold or the flu. Get bed rest, drink plenty of fluids, and treat any pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever.

When you understand the dangers of meningitis it’s easy to see how important knowledge of the symptoms is. You may not think you have to worry about you or a child contracting meningitis, but it’s good to know the symptoms so you’ll recognize them should the unthinkable happen.