Meningitis – it’s enough so send fear into the heart of any parent. Caused by a bacteria or a virus, it can kill children very quickly, so it’s extremely important you get your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if you suspect something is wrong.

Top 10 tips

1. Meningitis is very common in New Zealand.

2. Meningitis can be treated but it’s vital you act quickly.

3. Symptoms: Your child may have a persistent headache and/or a fever; the light may hurt their eyes and their neck might hurt when they try to move it.

4. Meningitis can be associated with a distinctive skin rash with tiny purple or red spots. These spots are actually bruises, so if you press down on them (for example with a glass) they won’t go clear or ‘blanch’ like other rashes, but will stay there.

5. The symptoms and signs of meningitis in young babies can be more subtle.

6. Babies may have an unusual, high-pitched cry and may be inconsolable; or they may be unusually sleepy. They may not wake easily for feeds and when they do wake, they may suck poorly.

7. Another thing to look out for in babies under six months old, in particular, is their fontanelles – the soft bits on their head. They may bulge out.

8. There is a vaccine for one strain of meningitis, available to at-risk children. But because there are many types of meningitis, you need to be vigilant for signs and symptoms and seek medical help regardless of whether your child has had the vaccine or not.

9. Always trust your instincts; you know best.

10. If you’re unhappy after seeing your doctor, return or see someone else.

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