Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, often caused by either a viral or bacterial infection.
There's no doubt that meningitis can be life-threatening and is therefore considered a medical emergency.
The main bacteria causing meningitis are meningococcal group B and C, Pneumococcal, Haemophilis influenza B (Hib), Group B streptococcus (GBS), E-Coli, TB and Listeria, but the symptoms for each are similar.
Left untreated, meningitis can kill within four hours, so acting quickly if you suspect your child has the illness is vital. Here are the key symptoms to look out for.
Your toddler could:
Check the rash by pressing it with a clear glass (or plastic) tumbler; if the spots do not fade under the glass this could indicate meningococcal septicaemia and you need to get medical help immediately.
If the spots fade when the glass is rolled over them, the rash may not be serious, but keep checking.
Don't just look for signs of a rash before calling for help. If your toddler has some of the other symptoms – seek help immediately – either from your doctor or go straight to hospital emergency.
If it is meningitis your baby will be treated immediately with strong antibiotics and intensive care.
Young children under five are most at risk from meningitis, with over 50% of all cases occurring in this age group.
Meningitis kills more children under the age of five than any other infectious disease in the UK.
Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable as they cannot easily fight infection because their immune system is not yet fully developed.
Vaccinations are now offered against B and C, HiB and Pneumococcal causes of meningitis as part of the routine immunisation schedule for babies in the UK.
Make sure your child has these immunisations to reduce the risk of them developing meningitis and serious breathing problems. However, there are other forms of meningitis for which there are no vaccinations so you should still be on the look out for the key signs and symptoms.
For more information, visit Meningitis Now