Kids Diseases


Viral Meningitis Viral meningitis is an extremely serious condition. It results from an infection with a virus that targets the meninges, the vascularized linings of the spinal cord and the brain. As the disease can damage the brain, it is regarded as a medical emergency. The condition of these linings may worsen because of an inflammation whose source is an infection, some medical procedure, an accident or certain substances.

The viruses that give rise to this disease are well-known. Serious as it is, viral meningitis is very common and does not involve many symptoms. The disease, however, can also be caused by bacteria, which is by far the more threatening case. It is also known as aseptic meningitis. Sometimes, specialists do find out the condition but are not quite sure of its cause; moreover, the accounting bacteria do not exist in the spinal fluid. One can contract it via contacts with infected feces as well as nose or throat secretions.

The virus often settles into children without actually provoking the disease. According to specialists, they are more susceptible in the summer and early autumn. Young children and those living in larger groups are at the greatest risk of infection. The same holds for people whose homes are short of running water. Generally, those over 40 are rarely infected although the condition is not restricted to a specific age group.

Causes of viral meningitis

The viruses that are responsible for this infection are referred to as enteroviruses. They inhabit the human intestines, which explains why they are spread via the fecal-oral route. Such viruses can only infect human beings. Here belong the ECHO virus and the Coxsackie (the major culprits of viral meningitis in the US) as well as Polio.

Symptoms of viral meningitis

This condition may develop all of a sudden without being preceded by any symptoms. It usually passes through different stages in babies: they may lose their appetite, seem sleepier and grumpy. Babies under the age of 18 months often develop a rigid or tender back and have nervous and persistent cries. The protruding fontanelle (this is the soft spot on top of the baby’s head) is not that common in viral meningitis and appears quite late, if at all. Sometimes, the condition involves a rash that may show up on the whole body or the arms and the legs only. The spots are generally red and flat but can also be slightly bulging.

Meningococcal meningitis, a variation of the disease, also comes up with a rash: small spots with bright red tips almost everywhere on the body. Some other type, the enterovirus meningitis, may induce a sore throat and conjunctivitis. The usual time-span of recovery for both children and adults is 10 to 14 days. It may take some children longer to completely fight viral meningitis. Symptoms, such as muscle weakness and spasms, headache, fatigue, insomnia, shifts in behaviour and lack of concentration, may linger for a few weeks or months.

Diagnosis of viral meningitis

To prove viral meningitis, doctors make use of clinical history of the disease and a physical examination that seeks to find pain through flexing the neck. Subjects of meningitis typically complain of a rigid neck due to the severe pain. The so-called spinal tap is also performed. The procedure is carried out with the help of a small needle inserted into the back to collect spinal fluid. It is then tested for the presence of abnormal cells.

Treatment of viral meningitis

There is no single and efficient treatment for this disease. When a person becomes infected, their immune system produces antibodies to destroy the virus. Children in whom meningitis is suspected but its cause has not yet been identified are always hospitalized. If viral meningitis is confirmed, intake of antibiotics is no longer necessary and children who recuperate well are sent back home. Doctors, however, insist that acetaminophen is taken to keep children safe from fevers. An important element of recovery is food: the focus should be on bland diet and clear fluids. When you get back home, put your child in a dark and peaceful room. Be careful, especially at first, as bright lights, noise and visitors may frustrate your child. With viral meningitis, there is the risk of fluid gathered in the meninges that increases pressure on the brain and can be irreparable.