Meningitis: What are the symptoms, causes of it? Who is at risk? Prevention tips

The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. 

Last Updated: Dec 09, 2016, 12:56 PM IST
Meningitis: What are the symptoms, causes of it? Who is at risk? Prevention tips
iral and bacterial meningitis can be spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing or close contact.

New Delhi: Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes (meninges) that surround your brain and spinal cord. This condition occurs when fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected.

The symptoms of meningitis can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache with nausea or vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Confusion or altered consciousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite.

Symptoms can develop suddenly in any order.

You should immediate medical care if you or someone in your family shows meningitis symptoms It needs to be treated quickly because it can be very serious, else, it can leads to life-threatening blood poisoning and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

What Causes meningitis?

The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. Other causes may include cancer, fungi, drug allergies.

Viral and bacterial meningitis are contagious and can be spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing or close contact.

Who's most at risk?

All ages are at risk for meningitis, however age groups have a higher risk. For instance, viral meningitis is more common in children younger than age 5, whereas bacterial meningitis is commonly found in those under age 20.

Pregnant women have a higher risk of listeriosis - an infection caused by listeria bacteria, which also may cause meningitis and can spread to the unborn child.

How can you prevent it?

You can lower your risk of meningitis by choosing a healthier lifestyle such as, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, getting an adequate sleep, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing good hygiene – not sharing foods, washing hands carefully, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Besides, ensuring all your vaccinations are up-to-date is a crucial step to reduce the risk of getting meningitis.