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What are meningitis symptoms and signs?

The classic signs and symptoms of meningitis are

  • headache,
  • fever, and
  • stiff neck (in adults and older children), and
  • eyes painful sensitivity to light (photophobia).

Symptoms of meningitis may appear suddenly and also include

  • nausea,
  • vomiting, and
  • changes in behavior, such as confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty waking up.

In infants, symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific and may include

  • irritability or tiredness,
  • poor feeding, and
  • fever.

Especially early in the disease, meningitis can have symptoms similar to the flu.

Some types of meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis should see a doctor immediately.

Return to Meningitis

See what others are saying

Comment from: swf, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: January 08

I was diagnosed with viral meningitis when I was a senior in college at age 22. I went to bed with a sore scratchy throat, and when I woke up the next morning my neck was very sore. It continued to get sorer and stiffer so fast that by the time I got myself dressed and was driving to health services, I could no longer turn my neck and needed to actually turn my whole body in order to check for traffic at intersections. I barely made it to health services because my neck and head were in so much pain, and I was rapidly developing a high fever. They immediately took some blood and had me ambulanced over to the hospital because they highly suspected meningitis. This was confirmed by a spinal tap at the hospital. I was in the hospital for a week. If you suspect that you have meningitis, please do not make the mistake of trying to drive yourself to get checked out. My symptoms worsened so rapidly, and I was lucky to have made it to health services without getting in a car accident.

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Comment from: momof3, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: November 06

I developed "chemical" meningitis after brain surgery (it's non-infectious). Some of the blood I lost during surgery got into my brain and spinal cord and caused inflammation of my brain and nerve roots of my spinal cord. I ended up with a high fever, headache, nausea, difficulty with vision and hearing, brain swelling, and dizziness. I also began having severe leg pain and difficulty walking. Steroids have helped my brain swelling but so far I am still having difficulty walking 12 days after my surgery.

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Comment from: frenchboy, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: August 17

I awoke at 3 am with a terrific fever. The bedding was saturated with sweat. I was very confused and couldn't hold a conversation. I was violently sick, constantly for three whole days. Vomit looked like cooked coffee grains. I wandered about in a confused state. Holding my neck up was very painful. Almost at a point of collapse. Seizures began a few days later, sometimes one following another, and appeared, so I'm told that I looked dead and hardly had a pulse. Since then my memory is poor and my character has changed. I get easily agitated and aggressive, which was not me. I have always been a quiet and passive person.

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