In our winter months recognising meningitis and septicaemia symptoms in babies and children can be daunting and very scary for parents, as some symptoms can be similar to flu and colds.  But understanding and learning about the symptoms will help you to make sure you act quickly if you child is unwell.

What is Meningitis and septicaemia?

  • Bacterial meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – the meninges.
  • Septicaemia is blood poisoning caused by the same germs and is the more life threatening form of the disease.

What to look out for:

  • The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell
  • Limb pain, pale skin and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion

Other signs in babies can be:

  • Tense or bulging soft spot on their head
  • Refusing to feed
  • Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry
  • A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless
  • Fever is often absent in babies less than three months of age
  • Early symptoms can be like other childhood illnesses, but children with meningitis or septicaemia can get worse quickly.
  • More symptoms information can be found here:

Meningitis and septicaemia in babies and toddlers - symptoms chart

What to do if you’re worried:

  • You know your child best; check on them often, trust your instincts
  • If you think your baby has meningitis or septicaemia get medical help immediately
  • Say that you are worried it could be meningitis or septicaemia
  • Return to return to a health professional if you have been sent home but your child’s symptoms progress
  • Don’t wait for a rash to appear. But if they are already ill and get a new rash or spots, use the Tumbler Test: Press a clear glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If you can see the marks clearly through the glass seek urgent medical help.