Knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis is more important than ever during the winter months as cases tend to peak at this time of the year, according to ACT for Meningitis, the Irish charity for meningitis awareness and support.
The charity said there is a higher risk of meningitis during the winter months because people spend a lot more time indoors and, with close contact, germs are spread more easily.
Also, coming down with a cold or the flu may weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to the disease.
The signs of meningitis can include vomiting, fever, headache, stiff neck, severe muscle pain and confusion.
In babies, parents should watch out for irritability, refusing to feed, high pitched crying, rapid breathing, cold hands and feet, and a bulging soft spot on the head.
The symptoms may appear in any order or some may not appear at all.
Children up to the age of five are the most at risk age group with those aged between 16 and 23 years, the second most high risk group, but anyone of any age can get meningitis.
Siobhan Carroll, CEO of ACT for Meningitis, said the symptoms may be difficult to spot as many of the early symptoms can be similar to those of a flu.
“We ask people to trust their instincts and, if they suspect meningitis, seek medical help immediately,” she urged.
“Meningitis does not always produce a rash but if one does appear, it will not fade under pressure.
“Time is of the utmost importance as meningitis can strike quickly and can kill within hours.”
For more information, visit www.actformeningitis.ie