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Alert! These Signs of Meningitis in Infants

Babies are prone to meningitis because their immune systems are still weak. If you don't get immediate treatment, this disease has a high risk of causing the baby to experience disability, developmental disorders, and even death. Therefore, recognize the signs of meningitis in infants.

Meningitis is a disease caused by inflammation of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection.

Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis, but the most dangerous meningitis is bacterial meningitis.

Meningitis is more at risk of attack:

  • Babies, especially those aged under two months. At this age, their immune system is not well developed. As a result, bacteria can enter the bloodstream easily.
  • Children who suffer from ear infections and recurrent sinusitis.
  • Children with severe head injuries and skull fractures.
  • Children who have just undergone brain surgery.
  • Babies and children who are born with HIV, a history of infection in the womb, and birth defects.

Causes of Meningitis

Previously it was explained that meningitis is caused by a viral infection carried by bacteria and fungi. Bacteria and fungi can perch on various objects, whether dead or living things. Food consumed daily also has the opportunity to contain harmful bacteria.

Viral infections caused by bacteria occur when bacteria enter the bloodstream and then migrate to the brain and spinal cord. When migrating to the brain, these bacteria can directly attack the meninges. Several types of bacteria can generally cause meningitis, namely:

1. Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus)

These bacteria are the most common causes of bacterial meningitis in infants, children, and adults in the United States. This type of bacteria can also cause pneumonia or ear or sinus infections.

2. Neisseria meningitides (meningococcus)

This type of bacteria is also the main cause of other types of bacterial meningitis. Meningitis caused by this disease is called meningococcal meningitis. It usually occurs when bacteria from the respiratory tract infection enter the bloodstream. This type of infection is very contagious and is commonly experienced by adolescents and adults.

3. Haemophilus influenzae (Haemophilus)

The Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria generally attack children and cause meningitis. However, it has been proven that routine immunization with the Hib vaccine can reduce the number of cases of this type of meningitis, especially in the United States.

4. Listeria monocytogenes (listeria)

A person with a healthy body condition will not get meningitis when exposed to listeria bacteria. But different cases for pregnant women, newborns, and people who have a weak immune system. They are more susceptible to infection by these bacteria. This type of bacteria can cross the placental barrier. If the mother has an infection at the end of pregnancy, it can cause the baby to die immediately after birth.

Signs of Meningitis in Infants

Symptoms of meningitis in infants vary, so that each baby affected by this disease may experience different symptoms. Even so, there are signs of meningitis in infants that are common according to his age, namely:

Infants less than two months

At this age, signs of meningitis in infants can be difficult to detect. Therefore, immediately take it to the nearest pediatrician or hospital if your child has a fever, does not want to suckle, suffers shortness, is lethargic, and looks fussy.

Infants aged two months to two years

Meningitis most often affects children at this age. Symptoms include:

  • Seizures.
  • Gag.
  • Fever.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Fussy.
  • It looks very sleepy until it's hard to wake up.
  • A rash appears on the skin.

Children over two years

In addition to the various symptoms above, meningitis in children over two years old will also show symptoms such as:

  • Confusion.
  • Back pain.
  • Neck pain and stiffness.
  • Easily glare or sensitivity to bright light.
  • Headache.
  • Decreased or coma awareness level.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Rash or reddish-purple spots

In infants or children who experience meningitis, there may also appear signs and symptoms in the form of jaundice, low body temperature (hypothermia), crying in a very loud tone, and the soft part of the head (fontanel) protruding.

To prevent the Little One from getting meningitis, the Mother needs to complete her immunization on schedule, including immunization for measles, polio, goiter, chickenpox, and influenza.

Although it cannot protect the Little One completely from meningitis, these five vaccines can help keep the body from being attacked by this disease virus. Also make sure he gets a Hib vaccine at the age of 2, 3, 4, and 15 months; and meningococcal vaccine at ages 2, 4 and 6 months.

Causes Serious Complications If Left Unchecked

In some cases, a person who develops meningitis can recover by itself within a certain period of time. However, if left alone without treatment, meningitis can spread and cause serious complications. Types of complications that might arise include hearing loss, brain damage, kidney failure, shock, memory problems, and walking problems.

Like most diseases, meningitis can be suffered by anyone, ranging from babies, children, to adults. However, usually, the symptoms of meningitis experienced by each age group are different from each other.

Symptoms of meningitis in children can be said to be more severe and troublesome. In most cases, children who are five years old experience the disease more. Therefore, immediately bring your child to the doctor if he experiences any of the symptoms above to get treatment as soon as possible.



  1. Bundy, L.M. & Noor, A. NCBI Bookshelf (2019). Neonatal Meningitis.
  2. Hasbun, R. Medscape (2018). Drugs & Diseases. What Are Risk Factors for Meningitis? 
  3. National Health Services UK (2019). Health A to Z. Meningitis – Overview & Symptoms. 

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