Symptoms of bacterial
meningitis usually appear suddenly. Symptoms of viral
meningitis may appear suddenly or develop gradually over a period of days. For
example, the symptoms of viral meningitis after mumps may take several days or
weeks to develop.
The most common symptoms of either form of
- Severe and persistent
- Stiff and painful neck, especially when trying to touch
the chin to the chest.
- Confusion and
decreased level of consciousness.
Other symptoms of meningitis include:
- Sluggishness, muscle aches and weakness, and
strange feelings (such as tingling) or weakness throughout the
- Eye sensitivity and eye pain from bright
- Skin rash.
- Dizzy spells.
The incubation period-the time from exposure to the
infection to when the first symptoms develop-depends on the type of organism
causing the infection.
Babies, young children, older adults, and
people with other medical conditions may not have the usual symptoms of
- In babies, the signs of meningitis may be a
fever, irritability that is difficult to calm, decreased appetite, rash,
vomiting, and a shrill cry. Babies also may have a stiff body and bulging soft
spots on their heads that are not caused by crying. Babies with meningitis may
cry when handled.
- Young children with meningitis may act like they
flu (influenza), cough, or have trouble
- Older adults and people with other medical conditions
may have only a slight headache and fever. They may not feel well and may have
- Other conditions with similar symptoms
to meningitis include
viral hepatitis and flu.
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