What may seem as a normal cold or flu could instead be the potentially life-threatening infection, meningitis. Because it’s important to act quickly, patients should understand the telltale signs of meningitis and take the appropriate medical action. Dr. Allan Greissman of Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida shared with HealthyWay what symptoms patients should look out for.
Everyone gets sick from time to time. But sometimes, what we think of as a normal cold or flu might actually be far more dangerous. With flu season fast approaching, it’s important to understand and recognize the difference between normal illness and more serious conditions.
If flu-like symptoms come on and escalate quickly, it may mean you or a loved one has actually contracted meningitis. Meningitis is an infection that causes our meninges—the membranes that provide a protective barrier for the brain and spinal cord—to swell.
Meningitis is a serious condition that requires immediate attention from a medical professional. It can be life-threatening if left untreated, so it is important to understand the telltale symptoms. When you can spot symptoms early on, you can quickly seek out medical attention that can mitigate the negative effects of the disease.
Understanding the Types of Meningitis
There are a few different types of meningitis, but bacterial and viral meningitis are the two most common.
Bacterial meningitis is the most severe form of meningitis and can be fatal, especially if treatment is delayed. There are many types of bacteria that can cause meningitis, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Group B Streptococcus, and Listeria monocytogenes.
Thankfully, the introduction of and increased access to safe and effective vaccines resulted in a steady decrease in bacterial meningitis cases since the 1990s. However, cases that do occur are dangerous and can be fatal if left untreated.
Bacterial meningitis is treated with oral or IV antibiotics, and treatment can last between 10 and 21 days, according to Allan Greissman, MD, of Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida.
The second most commonly experienced meningitis is viral meningitis. Although there is no vaccine for viral meningitis, you can be vaccinated against some of the viruses that could cause meningitis, like measles, mumps, or influenza.
It helps to think of viral meningitis as a potential complication of these other viruses. This means that, although you might catch measles, mumps, or the flu from someone with viral meningitis, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will also develop viral meningitis.
“Viral meningitis will run its course and should not [be], and is not, treated with IV antibiotics,” says Greissman. He notes that one exception is a form of viral meningitis caused by the herpes viruses, which is treated with an antiviral medication.
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