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Treatment of meningitis

Rupert G's story

Treatment in hospital

How is bacterial meningitis treated?

Bacterial meningitis needs urgent treatment with intravenous antibiotics and rapid admission to hospital. Whilst in hospital, other treatments, procedures and investigations will be carried out, depending on the patient’s condition. One of the main investigations carried out to test if someone has meningitis is a lumber puncture. Other treatment may include intravenous fluids (fluids given via a drip to prevent dehydration), painkillers and anti-sickness medication. In some cases, steroid medication may be given to help reduce swelling around the brain.

Some people will become very ill and will require specialist care and treatment in an intensive care unit. Here the doctors and nurses can closely monitor the patient’s condition using special equipment, respond to emergencies and provide immediate support when it is needed. This may include helping the patient to breathe with the use of a ventilator.

The length of stay in hospital will depend on the patient’s condition and response to treatment and can vary from a few days to many months.

How is viral meningitis treated?

There is no specific treatment for most cases of viral meningitis. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses although, in some instances, antibiotics may be started on admission to hospital because the cause of meningitis is unknown. Antibiotics are usually discontinued if viral meningitis is confirmed.

Once doctors have confirmed viral meningitis and the person’s condition is stable, they may discharge the patient from hospital to continue their recovery at home. Patients need to be hydrated with fluids, given painkillers and allowed to rest in order to recover.

Most people will be feeling better within a couple of weeks. However, for some recovery can be slow and take much longer.

If you suspect meningitis, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical attention.

Don’t face meningitis alone.

Call our nurse-led helpline

Call our helpline 0808 80 10 388 or email helpline@meningitisnow.org