Meningitis can affect anyone at any time, but there are particular bacteria that increase the risk of meningitis in teenagers and students.
These meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) which can kill within hours. For those who survive, many are left with life-changing after-effects such as hearing loss, acquired brain injury and limb loss.
Make sure they don't assume it's COVID-19
If your child starts feeling ill at university, they should call their GP or NHS 111 straight away. The temptation might be for them to think they have coronavirus, but it could be something else - including meningitis. Meningitis is a medical emergency, so it's vital to act fast and seek urgent medical assistance to make sure.
MenACWY vaccine - check it, don't chance it
The MenACWY vaccine protects against four types of meningitis and is free for eligible young people. Whilst many teenagers and young people will have had the MenACWY vaccine through the recent school and catch-up programmes, there are over one million eligible young people in the UK who have not been vaccinated.
If you're unsure whether your child has had this vaccine, check with your GP.
Know the signs and symptoms
It's vital to check that your child has had the MenACWY vaccine, but this vaccine does not protect against all types of meningitis, in particular MenB, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. Only babies currently receive the MenB vaccine, as their risk is greater.
That's why it's still so important to know the signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical attention if meningitis is suspected, alongside keeping up to date with vaccinations. Whether your child is going to college, university or starting work, make sure they know the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
The symptoms of meningitis can be easily confused with flu, a stomach bug or a hangover. If someone is ill and getting worse, call NHS 111 or your GP straight away. In an emergency dial 999 or go to your nearest A&E.