Meningitis is a dangerous and potentially fatal infection that causes inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain. The affliction often appears similar to a cold or flu and is most prevalent in children under the age of five and young adults. Certain identifiers distinguish meningitis from less severe infections. The unique meningitis symptoms do not manifest every time however, so it is important that if meningitis is suspected, immediate medical attention should be sought instead of waiting for other conditions.
Causes of Meningitis
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Meningitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. In its more common viral form, the progression isn’t as severe and less likely to be fatal. Bacterial meningitis is more dangerous but can only be contracted from close physical contact with someone already infected. In either form, the symptoms escalate much faster than with a cold or flu, usually within hours.
Like with the flu, a person suffering from meningitis will appear generally unwell, have a high fever, and will feel abnormally tired. Typically before more noticeable symptoms appear, an infected individual will feel leg pains severe enough that they have difficulty standing, discoloration of the lips, and despite a high body temperature, have cold hands and feet. The more recognizable meningitis symptoms include:
- Rash: A red or purple rash is common, but does not occur every time. If it appears, meningitis can be tested for at home with the glass test. The rash caused by meningitis is unique in that it fades when pressure is applied to it. If the rash is no longer visible while pressing a glass against it, it is unlikely to be caused by meningitis.
- Stiffness: Infected individuals are likely to have a stiff neck and will be unable to bend their necks forward. They may also report or experience aches and pains in their joints and muscles and suffer limited mobility because of it.
- Bulging Fontanelle: In babies, meningitis can be identified by feeling the soft spot on the top of their heads. The soft spot will feel different from usual and will be tense and bulging.
Meningitis symptoms can begin at any time, and in any order. The infection may be obvious very early, or it may manifest its more telling signs slowly. Though it is likely that meningitis will look like a less serious infection early on, the early symptoms will appear and escalate at a suspicious speed. As it progresses, an infected individual may also become drowsy and confused, have difficulty breathing, and avoid bright lights. If meningitis is suspected, it is important to act quickly before it reaches its advanced stages.