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Meningitis in a newborn: treatment & prevention

Meningitis is the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and the spinal cord i.e. the central nervous system. This infection is created either by a bacteria or a virus. Since the infection lies in close proximity to vital organs, the condition is considered as a medical emergency.

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The central nervous system is covered by membranes that provide protection. Meningitis is the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and the spinal cord i.e. the central nervous system. This infection is created either by a bacteria or a virus. Since the infection lies in close proximity to vital organs such as the brain and the spinal cord, the condition is considered as a medical emergency.

Common Symptoms Of Meningitis

The most common symptoms of meningitis are fever and headache. However, the occurrence of the following symptoms may also point towards a possible presence of meningitis.

  • Jaundice
  • Irritability
  • Pallor
  • Lethargy
  • Hypothermia
  • Poor feeding
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Stiff neck
  • Leg pain
  • Dislike of bright items
  • Intolerance to loud sounds
  • In infants up to 6 months old, the soft spot on the top of the head may develop a bulge

The symptoms can occur very quickly within a short span of time or may take days to appear. It is however to be kept in mind that not all symptoms occur in all children. Small children often do not develop any of the above symptoms. They however, become irritable and show signs of being unwell. If any of the symptoms of meningitis are noticed, the child is to be administered medical care without any delay.

Causes Of Meningitis

Meningitis occurs when the immune system is unable to produce antibodies that can protect the antigen from harming the meninges. If the baby is not vaccinated against meningitis, it is more prone to this disease.

Also, bacterial meningitis is contagious. If the baby had been exposed to another person having the disease, it may have contracted it through spit or snot.

Diagnosis Of Meningitis

Since meningitis is considered as a medical emergency, it is crucial to determine the cause of the child’s symptoms as soon as possible. The pediatrician may initiate a blood culture to test the blood for the presence of any bacteria. Such a test also helps in determining which antibiotic will work best for the child.

The pediatrician may suggest a lumbar puncture which involves the insertion of a needle to extract a sample of the spinal fluid from the lower part of the back. This fluid is then tested for bacterial infestations.

Treating Meningitis

It is known that bacterial meningitis is more dangerous as compared to viral meningitis. Bacterial meningitis can also prove fatal so the pediatrician usually suggests hospitalization until bacterial meningitis is ruled out. Soon after the tests are performed and before the results are assessed, the child is given antibiotics through IV fluids. Oral administration is not advisable.

Even after receiving proper treatment, bacterial meningitis may result in deafness, paralysed muscles, learning disabilities, seizures, damage to the brain and a delay in the baby’s development. The child needs observation even after treatment.

In case of a viral infection, antibiotics are not of much help. The child is advised to take plenty of rest. Viral meningitis usually goes away within a week without leaving behind any long-term repercussions on health.


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