Our 'off to uni' pack has a parent guide for you, and two symptoms card, one for you and one to give to your child. Not only could it save their life, they could save someone else’s.
Download our Parent guide.
Meningitis can affect anyone at any time, but there are particular bacteria that increase the risk of meningitis in teenagers and students. These meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) which can kill within hours. For those who survive, many are left with life-changing after-effects such as hearing loss, brain damage and limb loss.
There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that commonly cause disease, Men A, B, C, W and Y. Cases of Men W have significantly increased in recent years with teenagers and young people at increased risk. In August 2015 The Department of Health introduced an ACWY vaccination into the immunisation programme to offer protection against these bacteria.
If your child is under 25 and off to uni for the first time they should get vaccinated before they go. More information about Men ACWY and the vaccination schedule here.
Please be aware if you live outside Scotland but are attending University in Scotland, ensure you get the Men ACWY vaccine before you go. You will not automatically be able to get it from the GP surgery when you get there.
Vaccines do not protect against all types of meningitis so it is still important that your child knows the signs and symptoms to look out for, so if they are ill and worried it could be meningitis they can get the medical help they need quickly.
Why students are more vulnerable
- One in four 15 – 19 year olds carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats, compared to one in ten of the UK population. Most carriers do not become ill and usually develop some immunity to these bacteria. In an age group where more people are carrying the bacteria, there will be more disease.
- Meningococcal bacteria are passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing. Increased social interaction in this age group means that the bacteria can be passed on more easily.
- University freshers can be more vulnerable because of living in cramped housing, or halls of residence. In many cases, young people come together from all over the world to live in one place and can be exposed to bacteria and viruses their bodies have not met before. This is why so many new students get ‘fresher’s flu’.
- In a recent Meningitis Now survey 90% of people aged 18 to 24 said they had heard of the disease, yet only a quarter knew the signs and symptoms and 60% said they didn’t know they were at risk!
- Going off to university is often the first time young people are living away from their parents and, more often than not, their own health and wellbeing is not a priority. With no parents to keep an eye on their health, meningitis can be missed