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Meningitis Glass Test

Some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia. People with septicaemia can develop a rash of tiny red or ‘pin-prick’ marks which can develop into larger red or purple areas that look like bruises.

Meningitis Now - Glass test for rash

The rash does not fade under pressure.

The glass test can be used to check whether a rash fades under pressure. Someone with a fever together with a rash that does not fade under pressure needs urgent medical attention.

Meningitis Glass Test

  • Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
  • Spots/rash may fade at first. This is sometimes referred to as a blanching rash. However, the rash can change and develop into a non-blanching rash.
  • 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 spots/rash can be more difficult to see, check lighter areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, inside the eyelids and the roof of the mouth. Be aware of all signs and symptoms

What is the meningitis rash?

  • Some bacteria can cause both meningitis and septicaemia
  • When the bacteria are in the bloodstream, they multiply rapidly and 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:

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

Download our mobile optimised videos and images on your phone, or request one of our free credit-card sized signs and symptoms cards by calling our Meningitis Helpline on 0808 80 10 388.

Trust your instincts

Know all the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia

Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately

Describe the symptoms and say you think it could be meningitis or septicaemia

If you live on your own, tell someone if you are not feeling well. They can check up on you and take action if needed

Early diagnosis can be difficult. If you have had medical advice and are still worried, get medical help again

Septicaemia and sepsis

Many medical experts now use the term sepsis instead of septicaemia. Sepsis describes the life-threatening condition that arises when the body's response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs.

Call our nurse-led helpline

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