Signs and symptoms of meningitis in babies and toddlers

Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together. Be aware of all the signs and symptoms

Meningitis signs and symptoms - babies

Meningitis symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all. Early symptoms of meningitis can include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • muscle pain
  • stomach cramps
  • fever with cold hands and feet

Do not wait for a rash

If someone 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

  • Child with a fever

    Fever, cold hands and feet

  • Child vomiting

    Refusing food and vomiting

  • Child looking fretful

    Fretful, dislike being handled

  • A sleepy child

    Drowsy, floppy, unresponsive

  • Child breathing rapidly

    Rapid breathing or grunting

  • A pale child

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

  • Crying child

    Unusual cry, moaning

  • Soft spot on child

    Tense, bulging fontanelle (soft spot)

  • Child disliking the light

    Stiff neck, dislike bright lights

  • Child 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