Your little one could be healthy and full of the joys of spring at breakfast, yet fighting for his or her life by bedtime… that’s how fast this disease strikes. Make sure you know what symptoms you are on the look out for; it could be the difference between life and death.
Meningitis is a quick killer. Fortunately, as is the case with a poisoning emergency, parents who are know how to spot the signs of this quick and deadly disease can stop it in its tracks and save lives. Here’s how.
An Overview of Meningitis
What the heck is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a rare, but deadly, disease that is caused by the Meningococcal bacteria. Depending on what area of the body the bacterium invades, the infection can manifest itself in different forms: meningitis, which affects the brain and spinal cord, or septicemia, which affects the blood. In the worst-case scenarios, it is possible to have both at once.
How do people catch it?
Yucky but true, meningococcal disease is spread by the bacteria that reside in the mucus in your throat and nose. You may be surprised to hear that up to 20% of people actually carry these bacteria without it ever affecting them; however, for the unfortunate few, it can be deadly.
The bacteria can be spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing eating utensils. As such, the harsh reality is that, while this disease is rare, it can hit at any time without any prior warning.
Who catches it?
Babies and children up to age five years old are at the most risk of catching meningitis and currently account for around 60% of the reported cases. The next danger group is teenagers and young adults who are aged between 15 and 24 years because they more frequently engage in close social contact than us prudish old folk.
Can I vaccinate my child against meningitis?
There are two vaccinations available against meningitis: The A strain and the C strain. According to the Shim Clinic: “Both group A and group C vaccines have documented short-term efficacy levels of 85–100% in older children and adults. However, group C vaccines do not prevent disease in children under 2 years of age, and the efficacy of group A vaccine in children under 1 year of age is unclear. Group Y and W-135 polysaccharides have been shown to be immunogenic only in children over 2 years of age”. You can read more here: Meningitis vaccine Singapore
The Symptoms of Meningitis in Babies and Young Children
First things first, if you are seriously worried that your little one is ill, don’t wait for a rash to appear or ask the friendly ladies on your favourite online forum for advice… in the case of meningococcal disease, it’s preferable that the patient is treated before the rash even develops. Always remember that this disease works fast; as such, so should you.
The meningococcal rash is the notorious purple rash that indicates bleeding into the skin. You can distinguish between this and other forms of rash by pressing a glass tumbler against the rash; if you can see the marks clearly through the glass, seek urgent medical help immediately.
Meningococcal rashes typically start off as small spots that resemble mosquito bites or pinpricks and they quickly spread into bruise-like blotches. You can see some pics of sample cases below so you know what you are on the look out for.
If you do suspect your littlie has a meningococcal rash, try not to panic. While getting medical attention fast is incredibly important, the majority of people who do develop these rashes will be absolutely fine after treatment.
Other Symptoms of Meningitis in Babies and Young Children
- The soft spot, or the fontanel, is the area of the head where the baby’s skull is yet to fuse.
- Refusing feeds, is agitated and does not want to be picked up
- Floppy or unresponsive
- A high-pitched cry that you haven’t previously heard
- Baby’s body is stiff
- A high temperature (fever) over 37.5C (99.5F)
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale, mottled skin
- A dislike of bright lights
- Fits (seizures)
Nine out of ten cases of suspected meningitis will turn out to be nothing more than flu, food poisoning or some other common illness that mama and dada need not fret about. However, you should always trust your instincts. If you think something is amiss, take action immediately; it is better to be labelled an over-anxious parent than to face the consequences of not seeking medical attention quickly enough.