By contacting your local MP you will help us provide a stronger voice for people affected by meningitis

1000 cases, write to your MP

Meningitis rash - the glass test

A rash that does not fade under pressure is a sign of meningococcal septicaemia. People with septicaemia may develop a rash of tiny ‘pin pricks’ which can develop into purple bruising.


Glass test

  • Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin. 
  • Spots/rash may fade at first.
  • Keep checking
  • Fever with spots/rash that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency
  • Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.
  • On dark skin, the sports/rash can be more difficult to see. Do not wait for a rash. be aware of all the signs and symptoms of meningiitis. 


What is the meningitis rash?

As meningicoccal bacteria multiply rapidly in the bloodstream, they begin to release endotoxins (poisons) from their outer coating. The body’s natural defences have little effect on these poisons and eventually blood vessels become damaged.

As septicaemia advances, it affects the whole body and can cause organ damage or failure. The rash associated with septicaemia is caused by blood leaking into the tissues under the skin.

It’s important to know that septicaemia can also cause other more specific symptoms to look out for (as well as the rash):

  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhoea

What do I do if I suspect meningitis or septicaemia?

If you suspect meningitis or septicaemia, get medical help immediately. You can:

  • Call NHS Direct/NHS 24 or your GP.
  • Go to your nearest accident and emergency department.
  • Dial 999 for an ambulance.
  • Describe the symptoms carefully and say that you think it could be meningitis or septicaemia
  • Early diagnosis can be difficult. If you have had advice and are still worried, get medical help again.
  • Trust your instincts.

 Did you know?

  • It is a common misconception that a meningitis rash appears in every case of meningitis. This is not true. If someone has meningitis but not septicaemia, they will not have a rash that does not fade, but they can still be seriously unwell. Never wait for a rash.
  • Meningitis is the disease parents fear the most. And with 50% of all cases occurring in children under five, it’s easy to see why. We encourage parents to familiarise themselves with the symptoms, so that they can spot any of the tell-tale signs straight away and get urgent medical help.
    If you are worried about the symptoms of meningitis and spotting them in time, let us help you; Download our free signs and symptoms card.

Email us at [email protected] or call our nurses on 0808 80 10 388 for free to request one.

We also provide free meningitis symptoms mobile apps for you to download onto your phone.



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

We are just a click away

Our helpline is available to offer advice and answer your meningitis questions.

We are here if you need us

Trust your instincts

Are you worried that you or someone may have meningitis? 

Get urgent medical attention

Don't wait for a rash

Up to 34 million adults in the UK are risking death by believing that the main symptom of meningitis is a rash.

Find out more


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

See the meningitis app

The Information Standard