For meningitis, time is of the essence, learn the signs and symptoms. An early diagnosis with treatment could mean saving a life.

Early signs and symptoms of meningitis often present as flu-like symptoms.
The incubation period can be between two days and three weeks depending on the type of bacterium involved. Symptoms can occur in any order or not at all.

Symptoms include:

High fever

Severe headache

Stiff neck

Vomiting or nausea

Confusion or difficulty concentrating


Sleepiness or difficulty waking up

Sensitivity to light

Lack of interest in drinking and eating

Skin rash in some cases, such as in viral or meningococcal meningitis

Newborns and infants may not have the classic signs and symptoms of headache and stiff neck. Instead, signs of meningitis in this age group may include:

Fever, possibly with cold hands and feet

Refusing feeds or vomiting

High pitched moaning cry or whimpering

Dislike of being handled or fretful behaviour

Neck retraction with arching of the back

Blank staring expression

Child is difficult to wake or lethargic

Pale blotchy complexion

Bulging soft spot on the head – bulging fontanelle

A rash


Floppy or stiff body or jerking body movements

Breathing problems or increased rate of breathing

If you suspect someone you know may have meningitis. Trust your intuition and get medical help immediately.
The only definitive diagnosis for meningitis is made by analyzing a sample of the patient's cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is collected through a lumbar puncture, therefore describe the symptoms carefully and say that you think it could be meningitis or septicaemia.  If meningitis is suspected, aggressive antibiotic treatment must be administered promptly in order to prevent neurological complications.