Meningitis is a serious medical condition, which in some cases can cause severe health issues if it is left untreated. Treatment measures depend upon the type and severity of the infection.
Most people suffering from the viral form of meningitis usually begin feeling better within three days of initially feeling sick. Full recovery generally occurs in approximately two weeks. Mild cases may only require home treatments that consist of bed rest, drinking extra fluids and taking over-the-counter medication to relieve body aches, pain and fever. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral meningitis. In the event of a severe case, the individual will be hospitalized where they will receive intravenous fluids and possibly antiviral medications.
Bacterial and severe viral meningitis often requires hospitalization. Prompt treatment is necessary to reduce the risk of complications, such as seizures and brain swelling. Treatment includes antibiotics, corticosteroids and medications to reduce fever. The type of antibiotics used depends upon the particular bacteria present in the lab results. A broad-spectrum antibiotic may be prescribed until the exact cause has been determined. The antibiotics may be administered orally or intravenously.
In addition to bed rest and drinking extra fluids, patients may receive intravenous fluids. Infected sinuses or mastoids, the bones behind the outer ear that are connected to the middle ear, may need to be drained. Patients who have difficulty breathing receive oxygen therapy to reduce the amount of stress on the heart.
Medical professionals will also monitor patients closely and adjust care as required. If the antibiotics are effective, the hospital stay will last approximately one week. Extremely ill patients may require more extensive and prolonged treatment in an intensive care unit that can last several weeks. This is to reduce the risks of meningococcal disease from either meningitis or septicemia due to Neisseria meningitidis, which can cause long-term complications.
Other Types of Meningitis
Fungal meningitis is treated under the supervision of a medical professional due to the serious side effects associated with the required antifungal medications. A fungus is the usual underlying cause for chronic meningitis.
Cortisone medications may be prescribed for treating noninfectious meningitis caused by an allergic reaction. These types of meningitis often resolve on their own. Cancer-related meningitis requires therapy based on the particular type of cancer present.
After a full recovery, most healthy adults do not require follow-up care. Adults with other medical conditions should schedule a follow-up appointment with their doctor. Babies and children should always receive follow-up care and be monitored for long-term complications, such as hearing loss.