Meningitis symptoms in adults

Meningitis and septicaemia can happen together. Find out about all of the meningitis symptoms in adults here, and if you are unsure about the condition be sure to seek immediate medical help

Meningitis signs and symptoms - adults

DO NOT wait for a rash. If an adult is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.

Symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all. 

Common signs & symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia in adults

  • Adult with a fever

    Fever, cold hands and feet

  • Adult vomiting


  • A sleepy adult

    Drowsy, difficult to wake

  • A confused adult

    Confusion and irritability

  • Adult with severe muscle pain

    Severe muscle pain

  • A pale adult

    Pale, blotchy skin. Spots/rash
    See the Glass Test

  • Adult looking fretful

    Severe headache

  • Adult with stiff neck

    Stiff neck

  • Adult disliking the light

    Dislike bright lights

  • Adult having convulsions


Early symptoms can include:

Fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet.

Someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get a lot worse very quickly. Keep checking them.

Trust your instincts – Get medical help immediately

Get medical help immediately

Adults Get It Too

A study carried out for us* reveals that 96% of people aged over 65 do not consider themselves to be at risk from meningitis and septicaemia, despite the risk of meningitis increasing in older adults. The study also highlights that three-quarters of this age group are not confident in recognising the signs and symptoms of the disease.

That's why we're calling on people over 65 to learn the signs and symptoms to help look after themselves and their loved ones. Without vaccines for all types of meningitis, remaining vigilant is vital. You can download an awareness guide that includes the signs and symptoms of meningitis and information about meningitis in adults.

We are also looking for people over 65 who have had meningitis to share their story, to help raise awareness. Can you help?

*Populous Research undertook a survey of 1,100 adults across the UK to understand adult attitudes to meningitis and the level of risk they think the disease poses to them.

Download more information about meningitis in adults.

Request an 'adults get it too' materials pack 

Find out more about meningitis, as well as the symptoms in this short video:

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