As a doctor, I have come face to face with many deadly diseases. The one thing that has remained constant to prevent or fight against these diseases is awareness. They say being forewarned is forearmed and in the case of children, you can never have enough information. I remember during my internship days in the pediatric ward, I would notice that the number of child patients suffering from meningitis would increase especially during summers. And this is exactly what I will be discussing with you today – what is Meningitis in children and what you should know.
Meningitis in Children – what you need to know
In meningitis, inflammation occurs in the membranes of the brain and the spinal cord. The common reason is an infection which is caused by bacteria or virus. People of any age can get meningitis, but children are at higher risk since their immune systems are not mature.
15% of children suffering from bacterial meningitis will be left with life-long disabilities.
Globally, 170,000 deaths occur yearly due to bacterial meningitis. In India, there has been a steady increase seen in meningococcal meningitis. And given this data and as a doctor, I feel we can fight this disease through awareness and conversations. Since so many deaths have occurred I make it a point to have a discussion with my patients and family members regarding this deadly disease and why they need to keep a lookout.
In these discussions, I am often asked if so many cases have been identified, why have there been so many deaths. And I tell them that it is because initial symptoms are difficult to recognize as symptoms of meningitis can be similar to those indicating a viral fever.
What are some of the common symptoms?
- Fever, headache, nausea, vomiting
- Neck rigidity
- Muscles pain
- Neurological signs
Infants and children under 5 years old are most at risk.
Why is it important to protect from Meningococcal Meningitis?
- Devastating diseases: It can kill an otherwise healthy young person within 24-48 hours.
- Difficult to diagnose:Initialsymptoms are similar to viral fever.
- Long-term disability: Disability such as hearing loss, brain damage, learning difficulties, seizures, etc. can occur.
What can you do?
Here are some easy to do steps that can help reduce the risk of infection:
- Inculcate the habit of washing hands in your children, especially before eating, after using the washroom or playing with other kids
- Teach them to avoid close contact with anyone who is unwell
- Teach them to sneeze or cough in the crook of their elbow instead of their palms
- Always make sure the place your child is going to is clean and hygienic
- Vaccination – Consult your child’s pediatric to know more about the disease and the vaccines available for infants and teens. Your child should be vaccinated for the meningococcal conjugate vaccine(MCV). Some childhood vaccine can help to protect against viral meningitis.
Meningococcal meningitis can often be devastating and life-threatening. Speak to your child’s pediatrician now. Together, armed with this information, we can fight this menace and save our children!
For more information on meningococcal meningitis and its prevention check: http://www.comomeningitis.org/
- Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine Meningitis in children
- MedlinePlus: “Meningitis – meningococcal.”
- CDC: Meningococcal Vaccines: What You Need to Know
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Disclosure: The views shared are solely Author only.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the blog content are independent and unbiased views of solely the blogger. This is a part of public awareness initiative on meningococcal meningitis supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of the blog. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information.