Unusual posture, with the head and neck arched backwards (opisthotonos)
Signs and tests
The doctor or nurse will examine you. This will usually show:
Fast heart rate
Mental status changes
A lumbar puncture ("spinal tap") is an important test in diagnosing meningitis. This test is done to collect a sample of spinal fluid for examination. More than one sample may be needed to make the diagnosis.
Call the local emergency number (such as 911) or go to an emergency room if you suspect meningitis in a young child who has the following symptoms:
Persistent unexplained fever
Call the local emergency number if you develop any of the serious symptoms listed above. Meningitis can quickly become a life-threatening illness.
The BCG vaccine may help prevent severe forms of tuberculosis, such as meningitis, in very young children who live in areas where the disease is common.
Treating people who have signs of a non-active (dormant) tuberculosis infection can prevent the spread of tuberculosis. A PPD test and other tuberculosis tests can be done to tell if you have this type of infection.
Tunkel AR, Van de Beek D, Scheld WM. Acute meningitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 84.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.