Signs of meningitis in children: how to recognize meningitis in a child by the first symptoms of the disease
Meningitis symptoms in children – the incubation period, diagnosis, drug therapy and prevention
Today, a large number of young patients suffer from infectious diseases. That includes meningitis. The symptoms of meningitis in children (pain, temperature, etc.) are caused by inflammation of the brain's membranes.
The disease affects not the brain cells, but the outer part of the brain. Meningitis is of different origins and is caused by several types of pathogens.
To avoid complications and to start treating the disease in a timely manner, it is necessary to familiarize oneself with its symptoms and peculiarities in advance.
Neuroinfection, which affects the soft membranes of the brain and spinal cord, is called meningitis. Before it enters the brain, it destroys the hemato-encephalic barrier that protects the grey matter from all kinds of “parasites”.
Meningitis is a very dangerous ailment that is much more often diagnosed in young patients.
It often causes serious complications (nerve damage, cerebral edema) and is fatal if treatment is neglected.
Types of childhood meningitis by nature of development:
- primary – a stand-alone disease with no local inflammatory process in the organs;
- secondary – brain damage caused by general or local infectious disease.
Major causes of inflammatory infection:
One of the main causes of meningitis is infection in the brain. It enters the airborne, hematogenic, faecal-oral or lymphogenic pathways. Infection develops in the child's body with the help of:
- bacteria (E. coli or tubercle bacillus, staphylococcus, streptococcus);
- fungi (Candidate, cryptococcus);
- viruses (herpes, epidemic parotitis).
Lax immunity that is caused:
- regular hypothermia;
- Chronic diseases;
- diabetes mellitus;
- HIV infection;
- congenital immune system abnormalities.
In most cases, the signs of meningitis in children appear almost equally in young patients and adults. An unfavorable prognosis appears when parents ignore the symptoms of the disease and therapy is not started in time. Based on medical observations, common clinical signs of meningitis in a child are as follows:
- strong weakness, general malaise;
- significant rise in temperature;
- loss of consciousness;
- another sign of meningitis in children – saturated pain in the head, joints, muscles;
- heat, chills;
- Reduced appetite;
- appearance of runny nose, red throat;
- rigidity (sharp increase in muscle tone, their resistance to deformation);
- the sick child lies almost constantly on his side, with his legs pressed and his head tilted back.
There are also common specific factors that signal the presence of neuroinfection. They are often used by doctors to make a final, accurate diagnosis. This is how meningitis occurs in children:
- Occipital muscle rigidity. Constant tilting of the child's head due to strong muscle tone.
- Simply Kernig. Meningitis eliminates the possibility of bending the lower limb in the knee joint if it is bent in the hip joint. This symptom is caused by significant posterior hip muscle tone.
- Thoracic syndrome. When the doctor presses the patient's cheeks, the sick child lifts the shoulders up, the elbow joints bend, and the elbow joints bend.
- Lessage's symptom is characteristic of infants up to a year old. It consists in the fact that the infant involuntarily bends the legs when lifted up and held by the armpits.
- Mondonononezy syndrome – very strong painful sensations, appearing with little pressure on the closed eyelids.
- Symptom Brudzinsky. Upper type – if the little patient lies on his back, his legs will involuntarily bend in his knees when the doctor tries to bend his head to the chest. Average symptom is that the lower limbs of the child bend when you press the bent joint. When one leg bends in the knee and thigh and the other takes an identical pose, it is a lower symptom of Brudziński.
Mimic muscles are reduced by tapping the cheekbone arch (Bekhterev's syndrome).
Standard common signs of meningitis in the infant:
- partial or complete rejection of food, liquids;
- emerging rashes, yellowing skin;
- severe vomiting (attacks will occur frequently);
- may begin hypoglycemia (lower blood sugar levels);
- strength of the muscles in the nape of the neck;
- violence (hypotension), weakness;
- temperature rise;
- The baby is irritated and capricious;
- the swelling of the spring is also a sign of meningitis in children under one year old.
Often a child will have a rash of meningitis caused by a microorganism such as meningococcus. When the infectious disease has a mild form, the rash is similar to small dots of dark red.
Typically, after a few days this symptom disappears. The severe course of the disease causes a rash in the form of large spots, bruises. Localization of this sign of meningitis – arms, legs, torso.
Medics subdivides the symptoms of meningitis into three types: general infectious, meningeal, and cerebral. These factors are described in more detail below. The first signs of meningitis in infectious children:
- strong headache, muscle pain;
- high-rate heartbeat;
- skin pallor;
- declining appetite;
- the symptoms of meningitis in children include a strong thirst;
- blueening of the nasolabial triangle.
Specific meningeal symptoms in children:
- growing headache;
- capacity, anxiety, crying caused by touching the baby (due to muscle pain);
- Constant vomiting by the “fountain” (independent of diet);
- there are also symptoms of meningitis in children – photophobia, negative reaction to loud sounds;
- dark rash (hemorrhagic rashes);
- stress in the neck muscles;
- meningeal signs in children – impaired vision and hearing;
- may have hallucinations;
- frequent dizziness, fainting;
- fall into a coma.
The general brain symptoms of meningitis in children are considered to be:
- constant vomiting attacks, after which there is no relief;
- appearance of a bright venous net on the eyelids, the child's head;
- disorders in consciousness;
- intense headaches;
- eye-bottom vasodilation;
- convulsions: from shivering individual muscles to severe seizures;
- babies may have divergent cranial sutures in meningitis.
Neuroinfection often occurs suddenly: the child feels good, and the next day the first symptoms of meningitis may appear.
They are more pronounced initially in older children, and in babies in their first year of life the symptoms are not always immediate. Incubation period of inflammatory brain pathology – from two to ten days.
After the “activation” of the infectious agents, the first general intoxication symptoms appear:
- delirium, blurred consciousness;
- nausea, severe vomiting;
- sudden rise in temperature to high points;
- muscle pain;
- unbearable headache, which is often accompanied by fainting;
- improvement of tactile, visual and auditory sensitivity.
When the infection enters the brain, the first signs of meningitis appear. The symptoms of the disease in children over ten years of age are almost identical to those of an adult man or woman. Major symptoms of meningitis in adolescents:
- sudden increase in temperature (37-39 degrees);
- nausea, severe vomiting;
- loss of appetite;
- intensive headaches;
- general malaise, drowsiness, weakness.
Rapid development of cerebral membrane lesions characterized by serous inflammation is serous meningitis. Often, this diagnosis is given to children between three and six years of age. The disease can develop over several days or cause a rapid inflammatory process, which should be treated urgently. Symptoms of serous meningitis in children include
- heads, loss of consciousness;
- gallucinations caused by high temperatures (more than 38 degrees);
- limb tremor;
- pressure of the facial nerve, impaired motor coordination;
- strong headaches provoked by increased intracranial pressure.
Before prescribing treatment, the specialist conducts diagnostic activities. The examination of a child is carried out using different methods. Basic methods of diagnosing meningitis:
- The doctor-infectionist (or neurologist) talks to the patient's parents first. Find out if they've noticed the symptoms of the disease for a long time, how pronounced they are. The next step is a thorough examination of the sick child to identify and confirm the symptoms.
- Lumbar function (cerebrospinal fluid intake). Lumbar puncture helps to check the exact diagnosis and determine the type of meningitis.
- Cytological study of the liquor (ventricular fluid). Inflammation of the cerebral membranes is established if the liquor leaks out of the spraying jets or an increase in the level of lymphocytes is detected during the puncture.
- The X-ray and computed tomography of the skull are used to determine the causative agent of infection and the nature of the inflammation.
- Immunological analysis – detection of antibodies, viral antigens. There are two types of research: polymer chain reaction (PCR) and ELISA.
- Analysis for the detection of diplococcus and coccus in the body. This is done by taking mucus from the nasopharynx, skin scrapes and blood smears.
How to define meningitis in a child, home diagnosis
Meningitis is an inflammatory process in which the infection affects the brain and spinal cord membranes. This disease is characteristic of different ages: meningitis is more common in children and adolescents with weakened immunity, but there is also an illness in older people with chronic diseases and bacterial infections.
According to statistics, meningitis is one of the leaders in infectious diseases in terms of the number of deaths. Percentage risk of death is 10-20% out of 100, i.e. one in two meningitis patients risks not surviving the recovery process.
Therefore, modern medicine is trying to pay close attention to this problem by developing new methods of diagnosis and effective treatment.
Timely and adequate specialist help speeds up the correction process, and shortens the list of possible consequences for the body.
Based on the causes and conditions of the disease, meningitis can be divided into groups:
- virus. This type of disease is the easiest one and does not endanger the patient's life. The peak of morbidity can be called the period of transition from summer to autumn;
- fungus. Affects people with a weak immune system, which is most often found in older people. Caused by pathogenic microflora containing fungal infections;
- bacterial. Meningitis of this type has a pronounced symptomatology, is severe and can lead to death. Developed in early spring;
- tuberculosis – the most dangerous species. There is a pathology of generalization of tuberculosis in the body.
Meningitis development begins with the same symptomatology regardless of the cause. If the first signs appear, you should seek specialist help immediately. The first alarm bells are:
- increasing intracranial pressure;
- painful feelings in muscles;
- Vomiting, which is not accompanied by a feeling of nausea;
- constant migraine that breaks the pain;
- high body temperature, chills
- perception of bright color and noise;
- unpleasant feeling of tightness in the eyes, temples, ears;
- pseudo-epileptic attacks;
- skin rashes.
It is important to know by what symptoms and how to recognize meningitis, because a healthy person can confuse the first symptoms with the general weakness and malaise of the body. The onset of the disease is immediately accompanied by symptoms: a headache that is not removed by conventional painkillers. Seizures and arbitrary contractions of the facial muscles can be observed. Nerve channels may be affected.
In very rare cases, there are skin rashes, rashes that are localized on the buttocks and legs.
The symptoms are accompanied by increased headache, sudden squeezing of the temples, dizziness, loss of reality, hallucinations, anxiety.
Skin rashes of black, brown or pink can help to detect the onset of meningitis. Such a rash occurs the next day after infection.
There are secondary symptoms that are much less common:
- convulsions. Seizures are similar to epileptic seizures but are not;
- psychiatric disorders. May appear in complex tuberculous meningitis or encephalitis. You can recognize it by its strong excitement or inhibition. Children may begin to delude;
- Excitement of psychiatry. To understand that a person is sick is possible by fussy or restless movements and increased mental activity. These manifestations are characteristic of a later or neglected stage, but in case of rheumatic meningoencephalitis they may appear instantly.
Modern medicine suggests the division of meningitis into several forms: pneumococcal, meningococcal and purulent. There are distinctive features to each of these forms:
- pneumococcal disease is a consequence of untreated pneumococcal inflammation. The symptoms of this infection are the depressed consciousness of the patient, deep memory failures, not the realization of reality. This form of meningitis in a child has been almost impossible to diagnose, and is common in people over 30 years of age;
- Meningococcal disease is manifested by extensive rashes on the body caused by bacteria and microbes: listeria and staphylococcus
- purulent meningitis is a neglected form of sinusitis, otitis, or maxillary sinusitis. Or ENT are illnesses that have not been treated or that are due to infectious disease. Seizures cause severe convulsions, the level of intracranial pressure rises sharply, and the patient's consciousness becomes unclear.
Meningitis can be diagnosed at home with the above symptoms, but after the first symptoms, it is necessary to see a neurologist and start treatment immediately.
Specialist, in addition to studying the external manifestations of the disease, should continue the research with the help of modern means and tools. Then give all the necessary instructions and describe the sequence of effective and surgical treatment.
There is a special test for determining meningitis, which can be tried at home. It's very simple: to ask a man to lie on his back and stretch out his legs. If the knees bend their knees involuntarily, it certainly requires prompt medical attention.
It is already clear how to define meningitis, but it is much more important to know what is the risk of not taking the disease seriously and not wanting to treat it. The inflammatory form of the infectious disease develops very quickly and threatens with unpleasant consequences for the patient. There is a risk of such consequences for the body:
- disturbance of all body systems and malfunctions in the functioning of internal organs, infectious toxic shock. If the patient's resuscitation measures are not taken promptly, it is possible to lose him/her forever;
- hypertension. In this case, the pressure inside the skull increases and the hearing loss gradually decreases, which can lead to complete deafness;
- epileptic seizure. Brain lesions that develop over many years lead to frequent and severe seizures.
In case of unwillingness to undergo treatment, the patient may be completely paralyzed if the obvious signs are ignored. It can take a lot of time, effort and money to restart normal motor skills and restore motor functions. For this purpose they resort to the courses of therapeutic massage, acupuncture, lfk.
Pathogenesis – microorganisms can not only be transmitted between people, but also be transmitted through food, contaminated water, objects, and insect bites that are carriers. There are many other ways of transferring microorganisms:
- from mother to child. During childbirth, the child may be exposed to a virus or bacteria from the mother, who may not be aware of the presence of the disease in her body. A Caesarean section cannot be a 100% guarantee of protection against infection, but significantly reduces the risk of infection when compared to natural births;
- the airborne pathway. Infected patients through coughing and sneezing are able to transmit a number of bacteria that do not exceed the norm in their body, but are dangerous when in contact with the mucous membranes of a healthy person
- through faeces. Feces can contain many different infectious bacteria. It is important to understand that regular hand washing will avoid these problems. This simple rule should be taught to children from an early age, as they are the ones most at risk of infection through the oral-fecal pathway;
- unprotected sexual intercourse. Unprotected sexual intercourse, in addition to many terrible diagnoses, can carry the likelihood of meningitis. Kisses and contact with infected blood can also be the cause of this;
- through animals. Meningitis can be caused by urine and excreta from mice, rats or hamsters, water and food.
Meningitis can be verified by laboratory and instrumental tests:
- Biochemical analysis of blood for a detailed understanding of the state of the immune system. There are cases where sterility analysis is needed;
- punctions are samples of cerebrospinal fluid to diagnose the degree of damage to the body, the severity of the inflammatory process, the sensitivity to various drugs and substances;
- biopsy is not a must, but in some cases it is required to investigate the nature of skin rashes, their origin, the degree of damage to the body;
- Urine analysis is performed to detect the presence of infectious lesions in the urogenital system and to assess the functional state of the kidneys;
- MRI – examination of the brain and nervous system for the presence of complications;
- X-ray – test for the study of the respiratory tract and sinuses for the presence of infectious foci.
There are many diseases whose first symptoms are very similar to meningitis. In any case, the patient must be admitted to the hospital as soon as possible.
Self-medication can have negative consequences, some of which may become irreversible or fatal.
This disease requires urgent care, the speed of which gives greater confidence in full recovery.
There are several treatment options:
- Fullly diagnosed meningitis is impossible without antibiotics. In more than 20 per cent of cases, it is not possible to determine the type and nature of the pathogen, and antibiotic treatment is therefore selected taking into account the maximum coverage of all possible pathogens. The course of antibiotics should be at least a week, at the discretion of the attending physician. The duration of the inflammatory process in the body of each individual, so the course is prescribed, based on the characteristics of the patient. Basically, drug therapy starts to work instantly. The antibiotics used for meningitis are Penicillin and Cephalosporin. In severe cases, Vankomycin and Carbapenema are used.
- Diuretics are used to relieve swelling. Together with them, they inject the liquid inside. The most common are Diacarb and Lazix.
- For detoxification, colloidal and crystalloid solutions are used for intravenous detoxification.
- Patients continue to be treated at home under medical supervision if necessary. Patient can take sick leave of up to six months.