As complex as it is, meningitis can sometimes be a threat to life. Treating meningitis can be tricky, hence, it needs a team of medical practitioners to make a diagnosis and offer treatment for the condition.
You can call your doctor immediately under the following circumstances:
- If you experience symptoms such as a stiff neck, nausea, intense and persistent headache, vomiting, rash, and fever. Either you or your child can have these symptoms.
- Not getting better after three days of home treatment for viral meningitis.
- Developing complications such as a persistent fever for longer periods (three days) while on treatment for viral meningitis at home.
- Your child has a recurring fever, a swollen abdomen, diarrhea, a shrill cry, and vomiting.
Contact your doctor or a medical practitioner as soon as possible in case you get exposed to meningitis. You can be given antibiotics to help you fight the infection.
Who to Call?
Every health care provider plays a major role in diagnosing and treating meningitis. They can be an emergency room physician or your family doctor. They are all vital in the treatment process of meningitis.
The health professionals that you can consult include:
- infectious disease specialists
- internists or family medicine doctors
- emergency room doctors
Even though meningitis affects mostly adolescents and children, the illness can also affect adults. Thus, you may need the help of a pediatrician if a child is sick in your family. Pediatricians may be the first to determine if your child has meningitis or not.
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of children's diseases. They are regarded as primary care doctors, who often use their clinics to examine patients.
Upon suspicion that a patient has meningitis, the pediatrician will give benzylpenicillin, which is an antibiotic that fights a number of bacterial infections. Administering this antibiotic will help in buying time in case the patient has meningitis.
An Internist or a Family Doctor
While family doctors specialize in treating people of all ages, internists are trained to cure and care for the adults. Both an internist and a family doctor are most of the time primary care doctors, just like pediatricians.
They can also give benzylpenicillin to patients during emergency cases where a patient has bacterial meningitis. On special occasions, they can refer you to a more specialized doctor if they suspect that you have meningitis.
The two specialized doctors can also coordinate with other physicians and become a meningitis treatment team.
The ER Doctors
Physicians who specialize in emergency care are called ER (Emergency Room) doctors. If a patient has meningitis, which requires emergency action, the first doctor they will have to see is the ER doctor.
Infectious Disease Specialists
Infectious disease specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating complicated infections such as meningitis. They are specifically trained to deal with all kinds of infectious diseases caused by various harmful microorganisms.
Neurologists are doctors specializing in conditions and infections of the nervous system, spinal cord, and the brain. After interpreting diagnostic tests, a neurologist can order more tests if necessary. Neurologists check the extent of damage that has been caused by meningitis to the nervous system and the brain.
Other Medical Professionals
Even though laboratory technicians, registered nurses, hospital pharmacists, and nurse practitioners aren’t doctors, they play a huge part in meningitis care and treatment.
Ensure that you contact any of the above health practitioners in case you have the symptoms of meningitis.
Immediately call for emergency services if you or your child has the following:
- seizures, fever, and confusion
- breathing difficulties
- a fever accompanied by a bulging spot on the baby’s head
Immediately call your physician if:
- Your or your child have recurring and severe headaches, fever, nausea, stiff neck, vomiting, and rashes.
- You have viral meningitis and fails to improve with home remedies after three days.
- Your child has a recurring fever, vomiting, diarrhea, a shrill cry, and a swollen abdomen.
- You suspect that you have been exposed to meningitis. Antibiotics can be used to prevent you from acquiring the disease.
The initial symptoms of meningitis mimic the symptoms of a flu such as:
- irritability and tiredness
- overall feeling of being unwell
Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and a sore throat.
You may also experience the following symptoms of severe meningitis:
- a severe headache
- a large or small rash that can be purple or red
- neck stiffness
- photophobia (sensitivity to bright light)
- epilepsy (seizures)
Other symptoms that are more severe can include minimized consciousness levels and engorgement of nerves in the posterior eye. These specific symptoms may be as a result of an increased pressure in your head.
If meningitis is suspected, it is considered as a medical emergency. Being a fatal condition, meningitis symptoms can occur rapidly. You have high chances of a good recovery if you receive treatment early.
Who is at risk for bacterial meningitis?
- Babies between 1 month and 2 years old.
- Adults who have some risk factors have also higher chances of getting meningitis. You are more susceptible if you have a chronic ear or nose infection, if you abuse alcohol, have had a head injury, or have acquired pneumococcal pneumonia.
- Individuals with weak immune systems, those who had their spleen taken out, those with a sickle cell disorder, or those using corticosteroids due to kidney failure.
- Individuals who have undergone spinal or brain surgery or have suffered from an extensive blood infection.
- Those in close contact with other individuals such as in military barracks and college dormitories.
Watchful waiting means to allow time to pass without treatment or medical intervention. If you suspect that you or someone in your family have meningitis, watchful waiting is not recommended, since you do not know the type of meningitis you have.
Once the symptoms of meningitis appear, call the doctor.
Treatment for Meningitis
If what you have is viral meningitis, you will require medical care in surroundings that are quiet, calm, and dark.
The overall treatment includes the use of painkillers for headaches and close monitoring of your health status. To bring down fever, medications and a sponge bath using lukewarm water are given.
Anti-sickness medicine can be used to treat vomiting and nausea. Fluids might be administered into a vein in the arm through a drip.
If your meningitis is bacterial, the same treatment and overall care for viral meningitis will be given. Antibiotics are intravenously administered if bacterial meningitis is diagnosed. If the specific bacterium responsible for your meningitis is not yet known, you may be given various forms of antibiotics. Those suffering from fungal meningitis will be treated with anti-fungal medications.
You will most likely be treated in the ICU if your symptoms are severe.