Meningitis in children: should we be afraid of it?

Words alone about meningitis make one shudder because this infection can be horrible. But not all meningitis is created equal. We make status with Dr. Erianna Bellaton, pediatrician.

It all starts with an infection, usually mild: sore throat, nasopharyngitis, otitis, etc. Then that germ can cross the mucous membranes and cause infection in the meninges (three membranes that surround the brain) and the cerebrospinal fluid they contain. “Among the little ones, meningitis is most often manifested by feverthe child is a little soft, grumpy, sometimes drowsy, he no longer has the big appetite, his fontanel can bulge out ” points out Dr. Erianna Bellaton, pediatrician. “From about 3 years of age the signs develop and the child suffers from neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, he can not tolerate the light, we are talking about photophobia.

On the same subject

If the doctor suspects meningitis, he will refer the child to the nearest hospital. A lumbar puncture (sampling of cerebrospinal fluid) will make it possible to find the origin, viral or bacterial, of the disease because the treatment depends on it. While waiting for the results a few hours later, the child will already be able to benefit from intravenous antibiotic treatment.

Viral or bacterial meningitis: it is not the same

If it is viral meningitis (more than 85% of cases) and, if his condition allows it, the child will go home with a simple prescription for paracetamol and will heal in about a week. Opposite to, if a bacterium is identified (approximately 500 cases per year), whether pneumococcus, meningococcus B or C, streptococci or Haemophilus influenzae B, intravenous antibiotic treatment will be continued.

>> Draw to know: if you notice pink spots on your baby’s skin that do not fade for a few seconds when you press them with your finger, it may be purpura fulminans (a severe form of sepsis, often caused by meningococci), an emergency sign that should encourage ring 15 immediately.

As soon as the child’s condition has improved, he goes home with a prescription for oral antibiotics, but then has to go back to the hospital for various examinations (hearing, neurological …). “In 20% of cases of meningococcal meningitis, for example, the child will have sequelae for life: deafness, epilepsy, seizures, amputations, motor and cognitive disabilities.” And in about 10% of cases, meningitis spreads so rapidly throughout the body (sepsis) that antibiotics are not enough to catch what the child is not surviving.

Meningitis: the best prevention remains vaccination

“These serious consequences could be avoided”,reminds the pediatrician. You can be a carrier of these viruses and bacteria without even knowing it and therefore transmit them through saliva, drops from sneezing or coughing. No one can predict who will be affected, even if pollution is favored by promiscuity, exchange of toys, glasses …

“The best prevention against bacterial meningitis is continued vaccination” insists Dr. Bellaton. As evidence, vaccination against Haemophilus Influenzae B, mandatory since 2018, has significantly reduced the incidence of meningitis. Since then, the High Health Authority has added injections of pneumococcus (Prévenar®) and meningococcus C (Menjugate® and Neisvac®) to the list of mandatory childhood vaccinations.

As for the Bexsero® vaccine, the first vaccine against meningococcus B, it has been recommended since June last year to all infants from 2 months of age. Count 82 euros for each of the three injections that are not covered by the health insurance (except children at risk, for whom it is mandatory). “These meningococcal B meningitis are rare,admits the pediatrician, but their consequences can be very serious, so I can only encourage parents to get their child vaccinated. “

Our expert : Dr. Erianna Bellaton, pediatrician

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