Meningitis in adults

Many people unfortunately still believe that meningitis only affects babies and young children

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This is not the case. Meningitis can affect anyone of any age at any time; it can strike quickly and kill within hours. 

Make sure you know the signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical help if you are concerned.

Who is at risk?

Babies and young children are the most at risk, with around half of all meningitis cases occurring in the under 5s. Risk increases again for teenagers and young adults and also in the over 55s.

People over 55 are at increased risk of meningitis, as our immune systems weaken as we get older.

The most common causes of meningitis are bacteria and viruses.

Viral meningitis is very rarely life-threatening, but can still make people very unwell. Most people will make a good recovery, but recovery can be slow.

Bacterial meningitis can be fatal and needs rapid admission to hospital and urgent medical treatment. Whilst most people will make a good recovery, around 10% will die and 15% will be left with life-long disabilities.

Find out more about the after-effects of meningitis and septicaemia.

Some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning). The rash associated with meningitis is actually caused by septicaemia, you should never wait for a rash, it can be a late sign or may not appear at all. Learn more about the rash and Glass test.

Preventing meningitis 

Vaccines are the only way to prevent serious diseases like meningitis.

There are several vaccines to prevent meningitis routinely offered to babies and young children, teenagers and young people, and those aged 65 and over as part of the UK immunisation schedule. However, there isn’t a vaccine to prevent all types.

See more information on our vaccines page.

Know the signs and symptoms

Without vaccines for all types of meningitis, remaining vigilant is vital; we have free life-saving resources.

  • Request our credit-card sized signs and symptoms card to keep in your purse or wallet. Call our Helpline to get yours 0808 80 10  388
  • Download our app
Concerned about meningitis?

If you think you or a loved one has meningitis or septicaemia, get medical help immediately.

  • Trust your instincts 
  • If you live alone, make sure someone knows you are feeling unwell
  • Describe the symptoms and say you think it could be  meningitis or septicaemia
  • If you have had medical advice and are still worried, get medical help again