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It’s Meningitis Awareness Week.

This week is Meningitis Awareness Week. Apparently 70% of parents mistakenly believe their child is fully protected from meningitis once they’ve had their jabs, but this is not the case. The jab protects against meningitis C, but it does not cover meningitis B, which is the most dangerous form of the disease, the one that kills the most people.
Since I’ve become a mother I’m more aware of these sorts of things, but also I find I don’t want to read about the details of it. Websites are full of horrific stories and pictures of children that just make me want to keep S in a bubble and not think about any of it. But it is important to be aware of it.
Apparently one in four adults in the UK knows someone who has had meningitis. 3600 people a year are still affected by it, and one in ten of those will die from it. A quarter of those who survive will suffer the effects for the rest of their lives, including brain damage, deafness, and loss of limbs. Paralympian David Weir lost the lower halves of his legs to meningitis when he was 5. When I was 16 a friend died from Meningitis when he mistook it for just a bad hangover.  It is still a big threat and something we should all be looking out for. I’m not saying this to scare you, I’m saying it to make sure you are aware, because I was not until I saw something on daytime TV about it. (see? It does have its uses sometimes!)
This is the time of year it is most prevalent, with the weather changing and the schools going back. Everyone knows about the rash (I would hope), but it is worth knowing what the other symptoms are:
In babies:
  • A fever, with cold hands and feet
  • Refusing food and vomiting
  • An unusual cry/moaning
  • Dislike being held
  • Stiff neck and turns away from bright lights
  • Drowsy, floppy and unresponsive
  • Tense, bulging fontanelle (the squishy bit at the top of the head)
  • Rapid breathing or grunting
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • That rash we all know about – it doesn’t disappear when you run a glass over it.
Over 50% of all cases of Meningitis occur in babies and young children so it’s something all mums should be looking out for. Official statistics are that 3 babies or young children are taken ill with some form of meningitis every single day. It is the main cause of death in children under 5. Babies are particularly vulnerable to meningitis because of their under-developed immune systems.
In children and teenagers:
  • A fever with cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsy or difficult to wake
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Dislike bright lights
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • The rash
A quarter of all students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis at the back of their throats. In the general UK population this figure is only one in ten. Large numbers of students living together in halls of residence helps the bacteria to spread, and the student lifestyle doesn’t tend to encourage a robust immune system.
In adults:
  • A fever with cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Drowsy or difficult to wake
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Dislike bright lights
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • The rash
Many people believe meningitis only affects babies and children, but this is not the case. Adults are at less risk, but the risk is still there. People over 55 are at more risk because our immune systems weaken as we get older.
Meningitis can strike in minutes and kill within hours. Please always keep the symptoms in the back of your mind when you or your children seem a bit under the weather.
There is more information on the Meningitis Trust website.

Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.

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