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  1. ITV Report

Meningitis: How to spot the symptoms

Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to Meningitis. Photo: Press Association

Meningitis is often described as the disease most feared by parents, as it can strike otherwise healthy children and kill them within just four hours.

Around 3,400 people contract bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK each year. 1,870 of these cases will be Meningitis B, one of the most common forms of the deadly disease.

One in ten victims of Meningitis B will die, and one in four survivors will be left with severe after-effects, including loss of limbs, scarring, loss of hearing and brain damage.

Babies, toddlers, children and young people aged between 14 and 24 are most vulnerable.

Meningitis and septicaemia can occur at the same time, and share a number of symptoms. Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain lining, whilst Septicaemia is an infection of the blood. Both are deadly.

Knowing the symptoms and acting fast can save lives.

Classic symptoms of Meningitis

  • A headache
  • A stiff neck
  • Aversion to bright light

Other symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty standing up / supporting weight
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Confusion and drowsiness

Symptoms of Septicaemia

  • Aching limbs, particularly leg pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • A rash which starts like pin prick spots and develops rapidly into purple bruising

Other symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty standing up/ supporting weight
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Confusion and drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Change in skin colour
Place a glass on top of the rash, and watch to see if it fades. If it does not, seek medical attention. Credit: Meningitis UK

The tumbler test

People with septicaemia may develop a rash of tiny red 'pin prick' marks which can develop into purple bruising. You can test the rash with a glass tumbler to see if it fades:

  • Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the rash
  • If the rash does not fade, seek medical attention immediately
  • On darker skin the rash can be difficult to see. Check for the rash on paler areas such as the palms of the hands.
  • The rash is often a late symptom, and may not appear at all
Meningitis UK want the newly approved vaccine for Meningitis B to be included to in the NHS childhood immunisation schedule. Credit: Meningitis UK

Babies and toddlers

Babies and toddlers may display other symptoms, in addition to those mentioned above, including:

  • Blotchy skin
  • Turning pale, or turning blue
  • Tense of bulging soft spot on the baby's head
  • Poor feeding
  • High pitched cry / irritability

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