Up to 2.6 million adults in Ireland are risking death with the mistaken belief that the main symptom of meningitis is a rash. As the country finds itself in the peak season for the devastating disease, national charity the Meningitis Trust is campaigning to stop this deadly misconception.
The rash that does not fade under pressure, (a sign of blood poisoning ) does not always appear with meningitis. When it does it can be one of the last symptoms to be displayed, often too late.
The Meningitis Trust is worried to hear that 57 per cent of people immediately think of a rash when identifying meningitis – that is why it is hammering home the message Don’t Wait for a Rash.
Carole Nealon, general manager of the Meningitis Trust, said: “Knowing and recognising the other signs and symptoms of meningitis and getting medical help quickly is vital to reduce the devastating impact meningitis can have. Symptoms can appear quickly and rapid deterioration is a sign of a medical emergency. Instincts are key for survival; parents and health professionals must trust these.”
Meningitis can start with flu like symptoms. Those to look out for are; fever, headache, vomiting, and muscle pain. Other symptoms can include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, and seizures.
In babies, symptoms can include being floppy and unresponsive, dislike of being handled, rapid breathing, moaning cry, and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head ).
To combat the deadly myth, the charity is urging everyone to be aware of all the symptoms. Information is provided free by the Meningitis Trust. You can download one of its free symptom cards available at www.meningitis-trust.ie or call its freephone 24-hour nurse-led helpline on 1800 523196 and request information or a signs and symptoms card.