Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Meningitis symptoms

The symptoms of meningitis in very small children and babies include:

  • fever
  • a bulge in the soft spot on top the head (the fontanelle)
  • unusual or high-pitched crying
  • inactivity or floppiness
  • feeding problems
  • arching of the back
  • fretfulness
  • being difficult to wake
  • purple-red skin rash or bruising
  • pale or blotchy skin.

The most common symptoms of meningitis in older children and adults are:

  • fever
  • headache
  • stiff or sore neck
  • vomiting and loss of appetite
  • tiredness and drowsiness
  • irritability
  • purple-red skin rash or bruising
  • discomfort looking at bright lights (photophobia).

The signs and symptoms do not appear in a definite order and some may not appear at all.

This symptoms list does not include every possible sign and symptom of meningitis.

Meningitis can be a medical emergency. It can kill within hours, so early diagnosis and treatment is vital.

If you are worried that you or someone you care for may have meningitis, see your doctor immediately. If your doctor is not available, go to your nearest emergency department.

Recovery from meningitis

Most people make a full recovery after having meningitis. Some people recover fairly quickly and others more slowly, depending on the type and severity of the illness.

Some people who have had meningitis can have after-effects such as tiredness, mood swings, recurring headaches, and short-term memory loss, although these effects generally recede with time. Occasionally, meningitis can cause long-term problems such hearing loss or epilepsy.

Read more about recovering from meningitis on the Meningitis Centre website.

Last reviewed: November 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 162 results

Meningitis: signs and symptoms - myDr.com.au

Meningitis can occur suddenly and requires immediate treatment by a doctor. Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for.

Read more on myDr website

Viral meningitis | Public Health

Read more on Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services website

Viral meningitis - including symptoms, treatment and prevention :: SA Health

Viral meningitis is an infection of the covering of the spinal cord and brain caused by a variety of viruses, most often gastroenteritis.

Read more on SA Health website

Meningitis

Meningitis can cause death and requires urgent medical attention.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Meningitis - myDr.com.au

Meningitis: what is it, what causes it and what are the symptoms? Find out all you need to know, plus risk factors, treatment and prevention.

Read more on myDr website

Meningitis and encephalitis - Lab Tests Online AU

Overview Meningitis Encephalitis Signs, symptoms & prognosis Tests Prevention & treatment FAQs Related pages

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Meningitis in babies and children | Raising Children Network

Meningitis is an emergency. Symptoms include headache, sore neck and sensitivity to light. If you think your child has meningitis, go straight to hospital.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Recognising serious illness in children

Trusted advice on serious symptoms and illnesses in babies and children including high fevers, diabetes, meningitis, and when to seek professional advice.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Amoebic meningitis

Amoebic meningitis is a disease that causes inflammation and eventual destruction of the brain and brain linings. It is rare but usually fatal.

Read more on WA Health website

Brain Foundation | Meningitis

Meningitis Meningitis Read More at Virtual Medical Centre Description Meningitis is a rare but serious infection of the membranes (meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback