Bacterial Meningitis in Children | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is bacterial meningitis diagnosed?

If your pediatrician suspects that your child may have meningitis, they will order blood work and may collect spinal fluid to see what is causing the infection. Understanding the specific cause of meningitis will inform the doctor how to treat it.

How is bacterial meningitis treated?

Early treatment of antibiotics can reduce swelling and inflammation in the brain and prevent injury and death. Corticosteroids also may be given to reduce inflammation.

It is important to remember that timing is crucial. If you or your child has symptoms of bacterial meningitis, go to the nearest emergency room right away.

  • If doctors suspect meningitis, they will diagnose it using a spinal tap, blood tests (including blood cultures) and sometimes a CT scan.
  • Because of the small window of time between when swelling in the brain begins and when brain damage occurs, antibiotics are administered - usually intravenously.
  • Antibiotics are typically continued for one to three weeks.
  • Children with bacterial meningitis are admitted to the hospital for treatment and monitoring while awaiting the results of spinal fluid tests, and for doctors to look for a source of the infection, such as a sinus infection.
  • It is also important that doctors find out which type of bacteria has caused the meningitis because some strains of bacteria, such as meningococcus, are more contagious than others.