Bacterial meningitis is a relatively rare but deadly disease. According to Rospotrebnadzor, the incidence of children under 17 years of age is 2.99 per 100 thousand, 83% of cases occur in children of the first five years of life. At the same time, the success of treatment largely depends on how quickly the correct diagnosis was made.
Our expert: Marina Vitalievna Ivanova, Ph. D. Head of the Department of Neuroinfections and Organic Damage to the Nervous System of the Research Institute of Children's Infections of the FMBA (FSBI NIIDI FMBA of Russia).
Meningococcal disease is spread by airborne droplets, and most often children and young people get sick. What do parents need to know about meningitis? First, remember the symptoms. If you notice at least one of them in a child, this is a serious reason for calling an ambulance - you cannot wait for the arrival of the local doctor in this case. Secondly, consider getting vaccinated - this is currently the only reliable way to prevent. You can choose between polysaccharide vaccines, which have been used in Russia for a long time, and the new conjugated 4-valent vaccine, which forms a longer immunity. How to protect your child from meningitis, read here.
- High fever and chills. Meningococcal infection is characterized by a rapid rise in temperature to 38.5-40, and parents can almost always name the exact time of onset of the disease. A feature of the temperature is that it does not decrease well when using antipyretic drugs (it falls by only 1-1.5 degrees, or after normalization after a few hours it rises again to the previous numbers).
- Light sensitivity, severe headache. Usually, children with photophobia complain that the light is very bright, that it irritates them, they ask to turn it off, they lie with their eyes closed. Very often this is accompanied by pain when moving the eyeballs.
- Pain in a specific part of the head. With ordinary flus and SARS, the pain is diffuse (the whole head hurts), with meningitis, a certain part hurts. The pain is very strong, sometimes of a compressive nature (like a hoop is put on the head), sometimes the children say that their head is about to burst. In some cases, the pain is localized in the fronto-temporal regions. A distinctive feature of the headache is its intensification with a change in body position, as well as a weak response to painkillers.
- Nausea and vomiting. With meningococcal disease, nausea and vomiting is not associated with eating or drinking, vomiting does not bring relief (as happens with an intestinal infection).
- Increased neck muscle tone (rigidity). The child is unable to press the chin to the chest due to the fact that the muscles are too tense.
- Red star rash. The first elements of the rash usually appear in the lower abdomen (suprapubic region, the area above the inguinal regions) and on the legs (shins, feet). A feature of the present time is the fact that a rash can appear on any part of the skin, and the amount of rash is not always associated with the severity of the disease. The concept of asterisks often confuses parents: they expect to really see asterisks, as we used to imagine them. Rather, the rash has an irregular shape of a typical bluish-purple color, ranging in size from 1-2 mm to several centimeters. A characteristic feature of the rash (especially large elements): it is located, as it were, on the compaction of the underlying tissues, which is larger in size than the rash itself. The rate of appearance of new elements is different and directly depends on the severity of the disease - from very fast (growing before our eyes) to a day, sometimes even more. Sometimes the appearance of spots in the form of a pink rash is possible - this should also alert parents.
- Psychomotor agitation and delirium. The child is excited, tosses about in bed, cannot find a place for himself. Capricious, negative, sometimes aggressive. Possible delusions and hallucinations.