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27th Feb 2018

Half of babies with meningitis don’t show common symptoms, shows study

Do you know what to look out for?

Anna O'Rourke

Parents are being urged to learn the lesser-known symptoms of bacterial meningitis.

This comes as new research shows that young babies with the disease may not show any common symptoms.

The symptoms in babies include fever, a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot in a baby’s skull where the bones have yet to fuse together), seizures, neck stiffness and a coma.

However a study of infants with meningitis showed that only just over half of the babies suffered with a fever.

Half of babies with meningitis don't show common symptoms, shows study

Fewer than 30 per cent had seizures or a bulging fontanelle and just three per cent showed signs of neck stiffness.

“The classic features of meningitis were uncommon in many cases,” said Professor Paul Heath, one of the lead researchers.

Doctors should consider bacterial meningitis when presented with a baby who is unwell if if they don’t show signs of the disease.

The study included 263 babies aged under three months with meningitis from Ireland and the UK and was carried out at St George’s, University of London.

Half of babies with meningitis don't show common symptoms, shows study

The Meningitis Research Foundation has called on parents to be vigilant.

Symptoms to look out for in babies include a rash, vomiting and refusing feeds, muscle pain and cold hands and feet.

“In addition to physical symptoms, parents should look for behavioural signs that include a dislike to being handled or bright lights, being drowsy or unresponsive, unusual crying or moaning, and rapid breathing,” Sarah McMullen of the National Childbirth Trust told Huffington Post.

You can read the HSE’s guidelines on meningitis here.