Because of the wide range of possible symptoms, the infection is often hard to identify at first, and you may not realise how sick you really are. To add to the difficulty, not everyone gets the same set of symptoms, and they don't come in any particular order. In fact, some of the much talked about symptoms, such as a stiff neck or purple rash, may not appear at all.
Meningitis or septicaemia?
Often - but not always - the early symptoms are similar to that of the flu, gastroenteritis, or even a hangover - a severe headache, fever, sore throat, lack of energy. Alternatively, it could start with a sore arm or leg, an aching joint, or pains in the chest or stomach, depending on whether the illness starts off as meningitis or septicaemia.
If you're watching out only for the commonly talked about symptoms of meningitis (severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light), then you run the risk of overlooking symptoms relating to the more deadly septicaemia.
This is why it's critically important to be aware of all the possible symptoms, to be painstakingly watchful, and to use your gut feelings to decide whether the illness seems in any way strange, different or more rapidly progressive and severe, than you'd normally expect.
Don't wait for a rash to appear
This may be one of the later symptoms, but it may not even appear at all. If it does, it may be too late to stop the disease causing irreparable damage or even death.
Be vigilant if someone is ill
Check the sick person's body regularly for any sign of strange spot, blister or scratch mark, a faint pink or a red or purple pinpricks. If a rash in any form does appear, together with some of the following symptoms, then treat it as a medical emergency.
Remember, not all of the following symptoms will appear - there may only be a few. And symptoms differ from person to person. See a doctor if several or more of these symptoms occur and the patient is looking or feeling very unwell or deteriorates rapidly.
Symptoms in children and adults:
|MENINGITIS SYMPTOMS||SYMPTOMS IN BABIES|
|Symptoms in Common|
|· fever (which may not respond to paracetamol)||· fever (which may not respond to paracetamol)||· fever|
|· nausea or vomiting||· nausea or vomiting||· fever with cold hands and feet|
|· lack of energy||· lack of energy||· vomiting|
|· tiredness or drowsiness||· tiredness or drowsiness||· diarrhoea|
|· confusion or disorientation||· confusion or disorientation||· pale or blotchy skin|
|· dizziness||· dizziness||· poor feeding|
|· irritability or agitation||· irritability or agitation||· moaning/high pitched cry|
|· a sore throat||· a sore throat||· blank, staring expression|
|· dislike of being handled|
|Specific Symptoms||· fretful|
|· fever with cold hands and feet||· severe headache||· floppy or lethargic|
|· cold shivers||· backache||· difficult to wake|
|· pain in muscles or joints||· stiff or painful neck||· arching of body/ neck|
|· pain in chest or abdomen||· sensitivity to light||· bulging fontanelle (soft spot on top of the head)|
|· pale, grey or blotchy skin||· twitching or convulsions||· pink, red or purple rash|
|· rapid breathing|
|· a rash, which may start off as a spot, scratch mark or blister, as a faint pink rash or as red or purple pinpricks on the skin, then develop into the distinctive purple bruising.|
|It is important NOT to wait until a rash appears before seeking treatment, as the meningococcal rash signifies a critical stage of the disease|