Child Specialist & Neonatologist


The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by a lining called the meninges. Infection or inflammation of the meninges is called meningitis. There is normally a fluid between the meninges and the brain or spinal cord called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In meningitis, the CSF becomes infected.

Causes of meningitis

Meningitis is due to infection with either viruses or bacteria. Much rarer causes include fungi or malignant (cancer) cells. In general, meningitis due to bacteria (bacterial meningitis) is more severe than meningitis caused by viruses (viral meningitis). Most children with viral meningitis recover completely. Some children with meningitis may have long-term problems, but this depends on the cause of the infection and the age of the child.
The common symptoms of meningitis in infants and young children may be very non-specific. Older children may be able to complain of more specific symptoms like headache or that the light hurts their eyes.
Common symptoms are:

  • High fever
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy and drowsiness
  • Vomiting and loss of appetite
  • Headache


If you are worried your child may have meningitis, you must take your child to your doctor or hospital immediately.
Bacterial meningitis can be treated with antibiotics while viral meningitis may require very little treatment. The way a child is affected by the illness is different for each child.