Health and Wellbeing

Meningitis – What it is and how to identify it

Ruth, one of our Nurses in Student Occupational Health, talks more about Meningitis and what to do if you suspect you, or someone you know might be infected…

meningitis

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Meningitis? Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation that results from this can lead to damage of the brain and spinal cord nerves, and is potentially life-threatening. Meningitis is usually caused by a bacteria or a virus.

What are the signs and symptoms of Meningitis? 

Early signs:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain

More serious signs and symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • Drowsiness, difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Pale blotchy skin
  • Neck stiffness
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • Reduced levels of consciousness leading to coma
  • Rash of either small red/purple spots or large black/purple bruises that do not disappear when pressed. (See “Glass Test” below).

The signs and symptoms listed above can appear in any order, and not everyone will have them all.

Bacterial meningitis can lead to septicaemia. It is the septicaemia that causes the rash that is associated with Meningitis. Do not wait for a rash to appear if you suspect meningitis, get medical help immediately.

What is the glass test?

Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin,  if the rash does not fade this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. A person with septicaemia may have a rash of tiny “pin pricks” that later develops into purple bruising.

What should I do if I suspect I or someone else has Meningitis? 

Suspected meningitis is an emergency. Call 999 Paramedics carry the appropriate antibiotics to treat meningitis immediately.

What vaccinations should I have?

There are several different meningitis vaccinations given in the “NHS Childhood schedule”. All students should make sure that they are up to date with these before starting University.

Since 2009 there has been a large increase in the W strain of meningitis, therefore the MenACWY vaccine has been introduced into the childhood schedule. It will normally be given at the same time Td/IPV (Tetanus/diphtheria/polio) vaccine. This is usually given during school year 9. From August 2015, all “Fresher” students up to the age of 25 are offered the vaccine. This is available through your GP surgeries. If you have not had the vaccination and/or do not already have GP please contact Park Place Surgery.

Worried about your health?

We strongly advise that you make a GP appointment to discuss any health worries you may have. If you do not already have a GP please contact Park Place Surgery.

Further information relating to student health and occupational health is available on the University Intranet.

Best wishes,

Ruth, Student Occupational Health Nurse
Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team

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