Viral Meningitis in Children
Symptoms of Meningitis
It’s hard to know from the symptoms whether a child is infected with bacterial or viral meningitis. Because bacterial meningitis must be treated as soon as possible, call 911 or emergency services right away if you or your child has any of these symptoms:
- Fever over 100.5°F
- Severe headache that doesn’t go away
- Stiff neck (arching back or neck in infants)
- Nausea or vomiting with headache
- Sleepiness; difficulty waking up
- Irritability; dislike of being handled
- Bruise-like rash or splotchy skin
- Sensitivity to light
Note: Have any newborn or infant checked by a doctor right away if he or she is very irritable, very sleepy, or eats poorly.
Tests are done to diagnose meningitis and determine whether the infection is bacterial or viral. These tests include:
- Spinal tap: Taking a sample of spinal fluid from the lower back to check for signs of bacteria or viruses. This is the definitive test for meningitis.
- Throat culture: Taking a swab of throat secretions to check for bacteria.
- Imaging tests: These may include x-rays and a computed tomography (CT) scan to look for areas of swelling and inflammation.