Meningitis : Symptoms

Symptoms of meningitis can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all. In the early stages, there may not be a rash or the rash may fade on pressure.

You should get medical help immediately if you're concerned about yourself or your child.

Trust your instincts and do not wait until a rash develops.

Symptoms of meningitis, septicaemia and meningococcal disease include:

  • a high temperature
  • cold hands and feet
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • breathing quickly
  • muscle and joint pain
  • pale, mottled or blotchy skin
  • spots or a rash
  • headache
  • a stiff neck
  • a dislike of bright lights
  • being very sleepy or difficult to wake
  • fits (seizures)

Babies may also:

  • refuse feeds
  • be irritable
  • have a high-pitched cry
  • have a stiff body or be floppy or unresponsive
  • have a bulging soft spot on the top of their head

Someone with meningitis, septicaemia or meningococcal disease can get a lot worse very quickly.

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E if you think you or your child might be seriously ill.

Call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice if you're not sure if it's anything serious.


Meningitis rash

The rash can be harder to see on dark skin. Check paler areas, such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet , roof of the mouth, tummy, whites of the eyes or the inside of the eyelids.

If a rash does not fade under a glass, it can be a sign of sepsis (sometimes called septicaemia or blood poisoning) caused by meningitis and you should call 999 straight away.

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