Meningitis can be a serious disease in both children and adults. It kills approximately 500 Americans every year and some 4,000 cases are reported in the United States annually. Sometimes drug allergies, toxins, autoimmune diseases and cancer can cause meningitis. However, most meningitis cases are due to infections, particularly with viruses or bacteria. Some of these infections are easily spread from one person to another and may also be due to drug-resistant microbes.
Read more on meningitis in children and adults.
The lining around the brain and spinal cord is known as the meninges. It can become inflamed for various reasons and this inflammation of the meninges is known as meningitis. The are a host of effects of the inflamed meningitis and this may extend to the brain tissue. As a result it may disrupt brain activity which can affect different processes throughout the body. This is usually serious and can even be deadly if severe and not treated promptly.
Sometimes infectious meningitis may not be very serious and may also not require medical treatment. For example certain types of viral meningitis may not always cause serious disease. It can resolve spontaneously meaning that treatment is not needed to eradicate the infection which eventually ends on its own. However, supportive measures may be necessary during the disease to prevent complications and help the body overcome the infection.
Certain types of infectious meningitis may be preventable. Vaccines are the most effective option for preventing infectious meningitis. However, a host of other lifestyle measures can also be useful in preventing infections and should be considered. These measures may not always be definitive way to prevent infection.Nevertheless it should be implemented, especially where a person is at a greater risk of developing infectious meningitis.
Sometimes the drugs used to treat infectious meningitis may also be used to prevent meningitis if administered immediately after a person has been exposed to the bacteria or virus. This may only be effective in some cases of infectious meningitis and only with certain types. It is important to consult with a medical doctor to determine the most effective way to prevent, treat or manage these infections.
The signs and symptoms of meningitis may not always arise immediately after the infectious agent enters the body. There is a period during which there are little to no symptoms as the infection establishes itself. This is known as the incubation period. If preventative measures fail, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can minimize the severity of the disease and possibly avoid complications which may sometimes be fatal.
Read more on signs of meningitis.
Get Vaccinated As Advised
Always speak to a doctor about childhood and adult vaccination schedules. Vaccines help the immune system to develop appropriate defenses against the bacteria or viruses that can cause certain types of meningitis. Although vaccines may not offer 100% protection for every person, it greatly reduces the risk of developing infectious meningitis.
The need for a meningitis vaccination depends on a host of factors. It is usually given to people at risk of developing certain types of infections meningitis. Some of the factors that are taken into consideration includes:
- Age: Children are prone to certain types of infectious meningitis and vaccines against the more serious types may be included as part of immunization programs. Elderly individuals over 60 years of age may also be at risk of certain types of infectious meningitis.
- Residence: People living in close quarters like in dormitories may also be at risk of certain types of infections which can lead to meningitis. The occupants of school and college dormitories, military and personnel bases and similar living quarters may therefore require certain meningitis vaccines.
- Conditions: People with certain medical conditions may also need to be vaccinated due to a higher risk. These conditions include diabetes, diseases that weaken the immune system, nutritional deficiencies and liver or kidney disease among others. Pregnancy may also increase the risk for certain types of infectious meningitis.
Vaccinations can help to prevent infections but are not useful in treating infectious meningitis. Therefore these vaccines are administered to people who are at risk, before they contract the infection.
Keep Away From Infected People
While health care workers and caregivers may not be able to reduce exposure to people with infectious meningitis but other contacts, like family and friends, should limit exposure as far as possible. Many of the bacteria and viruses that can cause meningitis may enter through the mouth or nose through airborne droplets. These droplets are expelled from an infected person’s mouth (saliva) or nose (mucus) and is easily aerosolized with coughing or sneezing. It can remain airborne in a closed room for minutes and even hours.
Washing Hands Regularly
Another simple yet very effective way to prevent many types of infectious meningitis is to regularly wash the hands with antiseptic soap or clean the hands with an antimicrobial hand sanitizer. This is especially important to do after making contect with a person with infectious meningitism after using toilet facilities and before eating. Regular washing throughout the day is helpful in preventing many types of infections as contaminants may be on objects like door handles and are easily spread to people making contact with it
Avoid Sharing Personal Items
Personal items may be contaminated with infectious agents (bacteria and viruses). It can easily spread the infection from an infected to an uninfected person. Personal items like towels and toothbrushes should never be shared due to the risk of spreading these infections. Utensils should also not be shared among people without proper cleaning. This is of particular importance for people living in close quarters with an infected person, like occupants within the same household who are more likely to be in close contact.
Speak to a Doctor About Preventative Medication
Sometimes medication may be administered to a person who may have already been exposed to the causative agent of infectious menigitis even before the disease starts. For example antibiotics may be given to a person who is exposed to certain bacteria although they have not developed bacterial meningitis. These drugs eradicate the bacteria before it can cause meningitis. It may be the same drugs that would be used to treat the infection if it arose. The use of medication for prevention (prophylaxis) in this manner should be decided by a medical professional.