A popular online doctor @drolufunmilayo explains in simple terms the causes, symptoms, vaccinations, transmission, diagnosis, complications and treatment of meningitis in babies.

Quite educative, enjoy reading……

If you have a child that is

Not eating,

Has high fever,

Has a rash/spots,

If you put a glass on the spots and it does not fade, go to the hospital ASAP.

The child may have sepsis or meningitis (an infection of the brain cover).

If nothing is done, that child can die in hours.

So let’s talk a little about meningitis..

What’s meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the protective covers that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges) Who can be affected?

It can affect anyone, but affects mostly babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.

So what symptoms can it give?

high fever

cold hands/feet



fast breathing

muscle/joint pain

mottled or blotchy skin



stiff neck

not wanting bright lights

being very sleepy

fits (seizures)


not eating well

These are quite common

However if it’s a baby, in addition to all the above, they can:

refuse to eat

be irritable

have a high-pitched cry

have a stiff body

be floppy/unresponsive

have a bulging soft spot on the top of their head.

Babies can deteriorate very very quickly.

You must go to hospital ASAP!

So what can you do?Or how can you know?

Look at those symptoms.

If it fits, go straight to the hospital.

Sometimes the rash/spots may appear late.

Do NOT wait to see a rash before acting.

Once you notice a baby crying more than normal, not eating, high fever- see a doctor.

However if you notice a rash/spots, do the Glass Test- which I already described. Put a glass cup on it, press it down (not too hard though), for a few seconds and look- if the rash doesn’t disappear under the glass, that’s a bad sign.

If the rash does, then that’s reassuring.

Generally, the rash usually starts as small, red pinprick/spots before spreading quickly and turning into red/purple blotches. But as I said earlier, do NOT wait for a rash to appear- it sometimes appears late- however if you see a rash, that’s a quick test you can do.

Got it?

Why is it important to know and talk about meningitis in babies?

Because it can cause permanent, serious, life-long problems in the victims- including instant death. Especially if it is the meningitis caused by bacteria. The virus-caused type tend to be less serious.

This is no jokes.

The complications-what meningitis in babies can lead to….

It is nothing good. It is scary.

These are what it can cause……

Partial/Total Deafness

Partial/Total Blindness

Epilepsy (Recurrent convulsions)

Movement and Balance Problems.

Bone and Joint problems (Arthritis).

Kidney Problems.

It can lead to amputation of the arms and legs- just to stop the spread of infection.

Memory and Concentration problems in school.

Challenging behavioural issues.

Learning difficulties and poor mental skills.

Movement problems and Balance challenges. Inability to cope in school.

Subnormal intelligence.

Meningitis can permanently damage the brain.

This is serious.

So what causes meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection usually caused by a virus or bacteria as I said.

Viral meningitis is the most common but less serious type.

Bacterial meningitis is rare, but can cause permanent damage and kill instantly if not well treated.

Pls note.

Many different viruses and bacteria can cause meningitis, including but not limited to: meningococcal bacteria – mainly A, B, C, W, X, Y and Z

pneumococcal bacteria

Haemophilus influenza B

Enteroviruses – viruses that usually only cause a mild stomach infection

The mumps virus

Another important cause to state is the herpes simplex virus (hsv)– a virus that usually causes cold sores on the mouth or genital herpes.


They can give the child HSV which can cause meningitis and ruin the child.

Many doctors on twitter have said this repeatedly and I am also reaffirming it.

Children and babies don’t have a strong immune system to fight these viruses

KEEP YOUR BABES AWAY FROM RANDOM PEOPLE kissing, sneezing and coughing over them.

The baby can get an infection and die.

When you have a baby, it’s ok to keep them in your hands/a cot and let people peep and ONLY see the baby.

It’s not everybody in your hometown and local government that needs to touch, carry or worse still, kiss the baby.

Not every family member needs to touch them.

Pls note.

This may all sound funny and exaggerated- but if you have seen a little baby come down with meningitis, suffer and end up with permanent brain damage for life, or even die- right before your eyes- you would understand why this advice is no joking matter at all.

It is serious.

How is meningitis spread?




sharing utensils,


and toothbrushes

The infection is usually spread by people who carry these viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat, but may not be ill themselves.

So stay away and keep your kids from the above.

Obviously meningitis can be spread by someone with the infection, only that this is less common mode of transmission.

And I should also say that it is very possible to get meningitis more than once in a lifetime.

Please do not throw caution to the wind because you had it once.

Who has the highest risk of getting meningitis?

Anybody actually.

But it’s more common in:

babies/young children

teenagers/young adults

elderly people

And people with a weak immune system – for example, those with HIV/AIDS, and those with cancer who are having chemotherapy.

How is meningitis in babies diagnosed?

Diagnosis is done through physical examination for signs

blood tests to check for bacteria

lumbar puncture – where fluid is taken from the back and checked for bacteria

And sometimes a Brain CT scan to check for any brain problems, such as swelling.

However because it may take a few days before blood tests confirm if it’s a bacteria or virus causing the meningitis- the standard medical guideline is to IMMEDIATELY give antibiotics because bacterial meningitis is more serious, more life threatening and causes permanent damage.

If the tests rule out a bacteria meningitis, you may be discharged immediately- Most viral meningitis get better within 10 days.

All the child needs is rest, food and painkillers.

But leaving hospital is NOT your decision to make.

It is for the doctors to decide.

Pls note.

If the tests confirm a bacteria infection, the child would be admitted for antibiotics given into the vein for quick maximum effect to fight the bacteria, for drips to prevent dehydration and may need oxygen masks if breathing problems also present alongside.

The risk of catching meningitis from someone who has it is low. However if you live in the same hall/dormitory with the person, or it’s your partner, or you live in the same house.

Some people may recommend taking a dose of antibiotics just for prevention.

Meningitis in babies
A happy baby. Meningitis in babies can be complicated
Credit: What to Expect

Finally, vaccines.

There are vaccines that children can have to help prevent meningitis and fight it if they encounter it.

Go to any children’s hospital or any hospital around you and ask for it.

They are given at different times and ages- go speak with them and find out.

I think the vaccines are free in Nigeria.

Pls clarify.

That simple vaccination may just be what would save your child from untimely death and permanent brain damage for life.

Do NOT take this advice as a joke.

Thanks for reading.

Pls share for others.

Have a great day ahead!

This article is the intellectual property of:

Dr Harvey Olufunmilayo


Works in the UK


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