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Meningitis symptoms in children

Meningitis and septicaemia* can happen together. Be aware of all the signs and symptoms. A child with meningitis or septicaemia can get worse very quickly; keep checking them and get medical help if you are concerned. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.

*Many medical experts now use the term sepsis instead of septicaemia

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Early symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever with cold hands and feet

Common signs & symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia

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

  • Adult with a fever Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Adult vomiting 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 Convulsions/seizures

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

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

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

Trust your instincts – Get medical help immediately.

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

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