CHILDRENS PROBLEMS: MENINGITIS

Infection of the lining of the brain known as the meninges can be characterized by a mild persistent headache through to violent pain with coma and, if not treated swiftly, death. There is often an associated photophobia (dislike of or pain from light) and an almost characteristic neck stiffness that differentiates meningitis from migraines and other headaches.

Recognizing meningitis in an infant may be impossible without medical expertise. An inconsolable child clearly in pain that is worsened by attempting to dip the chin onto the chest or a child who is markedly fevered or becomes floppy or unresponsive must be considered possibly to have meningitis and rushed to the hospital.

One particular type of aggressive meningitis is caused by a bacteria called meningococcal bacteria which can be very swift in its effect. Meningococcal meningitis can kill a child within 4 hours. A headache associated with a rash that does not blanch when a glass is pressed onto it is meningococcal meningitis and must be treated by antibiotics via a hospital or doctor immediately. This rash characteristically appears on the thighs.

Most meningitis is caused by viral infection and tends not to be particularly dangerous. The pain is hard to control but the condition is usually self-limiting and rarely leaves any sequela. Bacterial or fungal meningitis is much more serious and can lead to persistent neurological deficits.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Any persistent or severe headache must be reviewed by a GP or accident and emergency department.

A lumbar puncture will be required for a firm diagnosis, along with blood and urine examination. More intense investigations, such as CAT scans, may be required and none of these should be refused.

Viral meningitis will not respond to an antibiotic but secondary infection may make the situation worse and, especially in a child, orthodox medication should not be refused.

Contact your complementary medical practitioner for advice on treating with alternative medicines alongside orthodox treatment rather than trying to deal with this problem without expert guidance.

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