How to Treat Meningitis: First Aid Treatment

Meningitis is a serious infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. The main risk from meningitis is that the infection can spread to the bloodstream and be fatal within hours. Why does meningitis occur? Our brains and spinal cords are covered by layers of protective membranes known as meninges. These membranes protect the delicate cells that make up the brain and spinal cord. A variety of bacteria and viruses can infect the meninges and cause inflammation; this is called meningitis. The infection can then spread to the victim's bloodstream and cause blood poisoning (septicemia). This causes the characteristic rash associated with meningitis, which doesn't go away when it is pressed on. Septicemia is life-threatening and requires urgent treatment in the hospital to combat the infection.

Anyone is at risk of catching meningitis. However, children and young people are the most vulnerable. Babies under the age of one year have the highest risk of developing meningitis. Vaccinations play an important role in reducing the risk of meningitis in babies and children, and the number of cases of meningitis has been decreasing. However, vaccinations do not protect against every virus that can cause meningitis. The treatment of meningitis and septicemia involves the rapid administration of strong antibiotics to combat the infection. Delays in administering antibiotics can be fatal; therefore, if you suspect meningitis, do not delay in calling for emergency medical help.

If you come into close contact with a victim who may be suffering from meningitis, then you should also seek medical assistance. In some cases, doctors will prescribe antibiotics to protect you from developing the disease.

Medical Terminology

When an infection spreads to the bloodstream, this is known as septicemia.

Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis

◾ Headache

◾ High temperature (fever)

◾ Neck stiffness

◾ Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

◾ Vomiting

◾ Lethargy

◾ Loss of appetite

◾ Reduced level of consciousness

◾ Seizures

As the infection spreads to the bloodstream, victims may become drowsy or confused or have a seizure. There may be elevated pulse and respiratory rates. In late stages, a rash may develop, which does not go away when it is pressed on. This is called a non-blanching rash and is a sign of severe blood poisoning (septicemia). Blood poisoning does not always cause a rash, so you must not wait for a rash to develop before calling for help.

First Aid Treatment for Meningitis

1. Immediately call EMS if you are concerned about the possibility of meningitis.

2. Provide reassurance and monitor vital signs until emergency medical help arrives.

There is no effective first aid treatment for meningitis. The victim will require early advanced medical care. Your role is to spot the warning signs that could indicate meningitis and seek early medical help without delay.

Don't Wait for a Rash

You must not wait for the development of a rash before calling for medical help. Some patients with severe blood poisoning may not develop a rash at all. If a rash does develop, the tumbler test can be used to determine whether the rash is suggestive of blood poisoning. If the rash does not disappear when a glass tumbler is rolled over it, this indicates blood poisoning.