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Signs of Meningitis in Teenagers

By Rica Lewis ; Updated June 13, 2017

Meningitis, often called spinal meningitis, is the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, which, according to Medline Plus, causes changes in the cerebrospinal fluid. Meningitis exists in two forms--bacterial and viral. While both of these infections cause the same initial symptoms, bacterial meningitis is much more serious. Early diagnoses is essential to your teen's health and may prevent permanent neurological damage.

General Illness

At first, it may be difficult to tell if your teen has contracted the flu or meningitis, as the initial symptoms can be very similar. General signs of meningitis include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and severe headache, which can be passed among teens through saliva, mucus or feces. In addition, the infection may be spread by touching infected surfaces. Enteroviruses responsible for viral meningitis are common in summer and early fall, according to Kidshealth.org.

Stiff Neck

A common symptom of meningitis in teens is a stiff neck. If this symptom accompanies general signs of illness, it may be time to see a doctor. The doctor will perform a spinal tap on your teen to determine whether the infection is viral or bacterial. If the infection is bacterial, your teen may need to stay in the hospital for intravenous antibiotic treatments, according to Kidshealth.org. However, if the infection is deemed viral, no treatments are needed. A viral infection typically clears within weeks without lasting complications, according to Medline Plus. Medications to help ease aches and pains may be helpful.

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Sensitivity to Light

Sensitivity to light is another symptom related to meningitis. Your teen may become agitated and even pained by light. Resting in a dark room may help relieve the discomfort.

Confusion

A confused teen with the above symptoms may be infected with meningitis. Though the chances of contracting the bacterial form are rare, a prompt diagnosis is vital to keeping your teen safe from complications and even death. Due to the seriousness of the infection, Kidshealth.org reports doctors recommend vaccinations for all teens. In addition, many colleges require students be vaccinated.

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