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R is for Recovery

8th May 2024

It’s Viral Meningitis Awareness Week (6 – 10 May) and today we’re focusing on the letter R, which stands for Recovery.

r is for recovery

Viral meningitis is rarely life threatening, but it can make people feel very ill. Most people will make a full recovery, but this recovery process can be slow. And some will be left with life-changing after-effects. With an estimated 6,000 cases each year across the UK, it’s also far more common than bacterial meningitis.

There is no specific treatment for most cases of viral meningitis. Patients need to be hydrated with fluids, given painkillers and allowed to rest in order to recover. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

So, our advice is not to try and rush back to your busy lives and allow yourself the time you and your body needs to get back to normal.

Leading an active life

Our Community Ambassador Jonathan Davies makes the point well. He was leading an active life, training for his first open water sea triathlon, when viral meningitis struck. He thought "I'll give it a couple of days and I’ll be back to normal."

"I expected to be back to full speed pretty soon. But I was wrong. When I left hospital I was a changed man – I could barely walk and struggled to string a sentence together. I was dizzy and confused, and just three days later, I was back in hospital.

“I was bedridden for six weeks, off work for just under six months and kissed goodbye to being a triathlete for around five years.”

But over time he got there. Now he’s back to full fitness and completing triathlons again.

“For me, viral meningitis is a life-changing experience full of compromises, after-effects and adapting what ‘normal’ means. I now try to balance my work and home life better."

Read more on Jonathan’s story

Off work for four weeks

Our supporter Kim tells a similar story. Last October, the 36-year-old mum from Reading had a headache that wouldn’t shift and she developed a temperature and sickness. A lumbar puncture confirmed viral meningitis.

“I really thought I would feel better after a week, and after googling recovery times and seeing two weeks stated I was ready to feel better and bounce back. Unfortunately, that was not the case, I was off work for four weeks and even then, I did not feel quite myself or ready to return.

“Since meningitis I have not been offered any answers as to how long my headache and exhaustion will continue. I have two children and work full-time. It is taking me a long time to feel back to my best, it’s been three months now and I am still recovering.”

Read her full story

Be kind to yourself

So, be kind to yourself as you recover, keep your expectations of what you and your body can do realistic, get the support you need and allow yourself the time and space required.

Help us too to raise the profile of this type of meningitis and inform health professionals, schools, employers, family and friends of the potential recovery times that sufferers can face. Keep viral meningitis and its true impact high on their agenda.

Talk to our Support Services if you have a question about viral meningitis and recovery times. Contact the team through our nurse-led Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or by emailing helpline@meningitisnow.org.

Share your viral meningitis story.