Meningitis Now staff member Rachel Oakley

Winter warning of meningitis as clocks go back

Rachel Oakley | 26th October 2020

With the clocks going back and the nights drawing in, it’s more important now than ever to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis, as cases of the bacterial form of the disease rise during the winter months

Meningitis winter warning

Despite the social distancing rules in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, people will be naturally meeting and spending more time indoors over the next few months, which means that germs are spread more easily.

October to March is the time of year when colds and flu become more commonplace and our immune systems are lower, leaving us more susceptible to deadly meningitis. In addition, with coronavirus so high on our radars, it could be so easy to put a headache and feeling unwell down to the virus and self-isolate, which – although the correct response for Covid-19 – could be disastrous if the illness is meningitis. Knowledge of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and quick action is vital.

Know the signs

Dr Tom Nutt, CEO of Meningitis Now, said, “We urge everyone to familiarise themselves with the symptoms, trust their instincts and get urgent medical help if concerned. Doing this could save yours or a loved one’s life.”

Meningitis is sometimes a difficult disease to spot as many of its early symptoms can be similar to flu. These can include fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, joint or muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, drowsiness, confusion and, in babies, a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry, rapid breathing and bulging fontanelle.

Both adults and children may have a rash that does not fade under pressure, but the rash does not always appear; never wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention.

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

As the vaccines that are available do not protect against all strains of meningitis, knowing the symptoms is the best form of defence.

If you have been affected by the disease, or have any concerns, you can contact our free Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or email us at

Download our free signs and symptoms card.

Read more about signs and symptoms.