In line with Meningitis Awareness Week 2018 (17-23 September) and because at our Mini First Aid classes parents tell us that Meningitis is one of their worst fears, we thought it timely to remind you of the symptoms and actions to take should you be concerned.

  • Almost half (49%) of children who have meningitis are sent home after their first visit to a GP and not admitted to hospital.
  • are launching a report on radio stations around the UK telling parents to trust their instincts. If your child is ill and getting worse, don’t be afraid to seek medical help immediately – even if you have already seen a doctor.
  • The common misconception is that a rash is the first sign of meningitis. This is actually caused by septicaemia and is often the last of the symptoms to occur, and sometimes never appears. Doctors therefore advise that you should never wait for the rash, and instead seek urgent medical help as soon as possible if someone is becoming unwell.

At Mini First Aid we want to look after all the family and make you aware of what to look out for in both children and adults.

Over the winter months, cases of meningitis and septicaemia tend to rise so it is super important you are clear about the signs and symptoms. We work with the Meningitis Research Foundation to make sure that our trainers have the most up to date knowledge about meningitis and septicaemia. 


We have spoken to Claire Wright, Evidence & Policy Manager at Meningitis Research Foundation. Claire tells you everything you need to know:   

A common fear for so many parents at our classes is meningitis. 

Yes, we definitely find this to be the case. For decades, parents have named meningitis as the disease they fear most. This is not surprising as the disease can be fatal and survivors can also be left with devastating after effects as severe as deafness, limb loss and severe brain damage. Babies and young children are most at-risk of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia.    

And you see a rise of cases in winter?

Sadly we see even more families affected by meningitis and septicaemia during winter. On average there are over three times as many cases of the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (meningococcal) in January compared with September.   

Why is this?

This is thought to be due to the bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to co-infection with the flu virus; and because the bacteria can spread more easily when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity.   

Can you explain the difference between meningitis and septicaemia?

Bacterial meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – the meninges. Septicaemia is blood poisoning caused by the same germs and is the more life threatening form of the disease. 

So parents and carers need to be quick off the mark?

Absolutely. Rapid identification and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia provides the best chance of survival. 



Early symptoms can be like other milder childhood infections, but children with meningitis or septicaemia can get worse quickly. The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin and cold hands and feet often appear EARLIER than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.  


Other signs in babies can be:

  • Tense or bulging soft spot on their head
  • Refusing to feed
  • Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry
  • A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless
  • Fever is often absent in babies less than three months of age



The symptoms in adults are very similar to those found in children, with the early signs including cold hands and feet, vomiting, headaches and muscle pain. People’s condition can deteriorate very quickly so it is essential to keep checking and get urgent medical attention.

• Fever, cold hands and feet

• Vomiting

• Drowsy, difficult to wake

• Confusion and irritability

• Severe muscle pain

• Pale, blotchy skin. Spots/rash

• Severe headache

• Stiff neck

• Dislike of bright lights

• Convulsions/seizures


What should parents/carers do if they are worried?

  • Remember you know your child best: Check on them often and trust your instincts.
  • If you think your baby has meningitis or septicaemia get medical help immediately. 
  • Tell a health professional that you are worried it could be meningitis or septicaemia.
  • Return to a health professional if you have been sent home but your child’s symptoms progress.
  • Don’t wait for a rash to appear. But if they are already ill and get a new rash or spots, use the Tumbler TestPress a clear glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If you can see the marks clearly through the glass seek urgent medical help. 

Where can parents find more information? For more information about meningitis and septicaemia visit or get in touch via our free helpline on 080 8800 3344 /