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Meningitis symptoms in babies & toddlers

Babies and young children are the most at risk group for meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia.

Knowing signs and symptoms, trusting your instincts and getting medical help immediately can save lives.

DO NOT WAIT FOR A RASH. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.

Common signs & symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia

Symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all.











Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together. It is important to be aware of all the signs and symptoms.

If you suspect meningitis or septicaemia, get medical help immediately

Emergency numbers

Glass test

Meningitis types and causes

Meningitis support


Key facts

  • Babies, toddlers and young children under five are an at risk group for meningitis, with over 50% of all cases occurring in this age group.
  • More than three babies, toddlers or young children will be taken ill with meningitis every day.
  • Meningitis kills more children under the age of five than any other infectious disease in the UK.
  • Meningitis is the disease parents fear the most.

Why are babies and toddlers at risk?

  • Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to meningitis as they cannot easily fight infection because their immune system is not yet fully developed.
  • Babies and toddlers can’t tell you how they are feeling and they can get a lot worse very quickly. Keep checking them.

How can I help protect my baby or toddler?

  • There are several vaccines available to babies and toddlers in the UK to help protect against some strains of meningitis.
  • Unfortunately there isn’t a vaccine to protect against all strains of meningitis, so knowledge of the signs and symptoms of the disease, remaining vigilant and getting medical help quickly is vital. 
  • We produce symptoms cards in credit-card size, so that it can be kept easily inside a purse or wallet. Our symptoms cards are free to anyone. Please download one here or call our freephone helpline on 0808 80 10 388 to get yours.
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Download symptoms app

Email our helpline team

Speak to our helpline

Download and print signs and symptoms


Meningitis Now is the new name for Meningitis UK and the Meningitis Trust. Our goals remain the same – saving lives and rebuilding futures.

Find out more

The glass test

A rash that does not fade under pressure is a sign of meningococcal septicaemia and is a medical emergency.
Read more.

Glass Test.jpeg

Medical emergency?

Are you worried that you or someone may have meningitis? Trust your instincts.

Get urgent medical attention


You can now keep the Meningitis Now signs and symptoms card on your iPhone. Life-saving information at your fingertips

See the meningitis app

Online meningitis community


Talk with others who have had meningitis experiences

Visit HealthUnlocked

The Information Standard