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Meningitis in babies and children

Meningitis can be a terrifying word, especially for new parents. But when it comes to these scary topics, knowledge really is power and the best possible way to protect your child against meningitis.

⁠Meningitis is a disease caused by an infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. The longer term complications of this can include blindness, deafness, brain damage, and in the worst cases can be fatal.

Meningitis can affect anyone but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers, and young adults.⁠

Your baby will be offered a series of vaccinations to protect against meningitis⁠:

  • The Meningitis B vaccine at eight weeks, then a second dose at 16 weeks and a booster at one year.
  • The 6-in-1 vaccine at eight, 12, and 16 weeks of old.⁠
  • The pneumococcal vaccine at 12 weeks or one year (for babies born after 1 January 2020).⁠
  • The MenC vaccine at one year old.⁠

Despite these vaccinations, it is important to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of meningitis: ⁠

  • High temperature of 38C or above
  • Blotchy skin⁠
  • Difficulty looking at bright lights
  • Bruise-like rashes that don’t fade under pressure
  • Stiff neck⁠
  • Cold hands and feet⁠
  • Headaches⁠
  • Being sick⁠
  • Diarrhoea⁠
  • Muscle pain⁠
  • Drowsiness⁠.⁠

The symptoms of meningitis can vary and appear in any order. In particular, not everyone develops a rash, so don’t wait for one to develop if you suspect meningitis.

⁠It can be difficult to diagnose your child when they are unwell. That’s why it’s so important to trust you gut and get medical help as soon as possible if you think you need it. Call 999 if you think your child might be seriously ill or call 111 if you’re not sure.⁠