Meningitis | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is meningitis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history, physical exam, and blood tests, your child’s doctor may need to perform other procedures to confirm that your child has meningitis, including:

Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)

  • A special needle is placed into your child’s lower back into the spinal canal.
  • It measures the pressure in the spinal canal and brain.
  • A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems.
  • We don’t recommend this if your child is very ill.

Computerized tomography scan

  • also called a CT or CAT scan
  • uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body
  • shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
  • more detailed than general x-rays

How do we treat meningitis?

Early treatment with antibiotics can reduce swelling and inflammation in your child's brain. Timing is crucial. If your child has symptoms of bacterial meningitis, go to the nearest emergency room right away.

If someone is in close contact with a person who has bacterial meningitis, such as a roommate, parent, sibling, daycare worker, classmate, or boyfriend or girlfriend, they are at an increased risk and should go to the doctor for antibiotics to prevent bacterial meningitis before symptoms occur.

Traditional treatments for meningitis

Treatment depends on the type of meningitis, but can include:

Bacterial meningitis

  • intravenous (IV) antibiotics
  • the earlier the treatment starts, the better your outcome
  • antibiotics can start before the results of the lumbar puncture are available
  • a corticosteroid, or steroid, such as dexamethasone can decrease inflammation and reduce pressure that can build up in the brain

Viral meningitis

  • Tylenol can relieve symptoms.
  • With the exception of the herpes simplex virus, there are no medications to treat the organisms that cause viral meningitis.
  • Most children with viral meningitis recover on their own without treatment.

Fungal meningitis

  • anti-fungal intravenous (IV) medication

Tuberculosis (TB) meningitis

  • a long course (one year) of medications
  • usually involves several different medications for the first few months, followed by other medications