Meningitis: the symptoms

The most suggestive symptoms of meningitis are violent headaches associated with fever.

This headache can be associated with a rather specific symptom of meningitis: the stiffness of the neck (pain in the back during the flexion of the neck).

Most often, the subject also suffers from:

  • vomiting
  • nausea.
  • increased sensitivity to light and noise.

In the extreme, neurological symptoms can be observed:

  • prostration,
  • confusion,
  • epileptic crisis,
  • even signs of localized brain damage (vision problems, paralysis, etc.).

These symptoms should include suspicion of a spread of the infection in the brain, called meningoencephalitis.

The presence of purpura on the body (small purplish spots) should make meningococcal meningitis suspect. If the spots spread very quickly, they are a therapeutic emergency.

On examination, in case of violent headache accompanied by fever, the doctor must look for a stiffness of the neck and the presence of a purpura.

If in doubt, it is imperative to hospitalize the patient, at least for a lumbar puncture that will confirm or invalidate the diagnosis.

In the infant

In infants, the diagnosis is particularly difficult to make. You have to think about it if a baby has unusual behavior, has a fever, is restless or sleepy.

In the infant, it is the axial hypotonia (soft baby), more than the neck stiffness, which must be sought. Sometimes the fontanelle is bulging. But this symptom is suggestive when the baby is calm, and outside the screams. When in doubt, hospitalize the baby for a lumbar puncture.

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