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Bacterial Meningitis Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms

Classic symptoms can develop over several hours, or may take 1 to 2 days:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Very stiff, sore neck

Other symptoms may include:

  • Red or purple skin rash
  • Cyanosis (bluish skin color)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to bright lights)
  • Sleepiness
  • Mental confusion

In newborns and infants, symptoms are hard to see. As a result infants under three months old with a fever are often checked for meningitis. Symptoms in newborns and infants may include:

  • Inactivity
  • Unexplained high fever or any form of temperature instability, including a low body temperature
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellow color to the skin)
  • Feeding poorly or refusing to eat
  • Tautness or bulging of soft spots between skull bones
  • Difficulty awakening

As the illness progresses, seizures and/or hearing loss can occur. This can happen to patients of all ages.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

  • Spinal tap —removal of a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid to check for bacteria
  • Other cultures—testing of samples of blood, urine, mucous, and/or pus from skin infections
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body (to be sure the inflammation is not from some other cause, such as a tumor)
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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