Meningitis in Infants and Children
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by infection.
What is going on in the body?
The central nervous system, also called the CNS, consists of the brain and spinal cord. Three layers of fibrous tissue cover the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord. These layers cushion and protect the CNS.
Sometimes organisms, such as bacteria or viruses, can infect these layers. When this happens, the body takes steps to defend itself from infection. White blood cells and other infection-fighting substances pour into the cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. This is the fluid that circulates within the brain and over its surface. This process results in a set of symptoms known as meningitis.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Meningitis can be caused by a number of different organisms, including:
bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidis,
Haemophilus influenzae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae
organisms similar to bacteria, such as mycobacteria that cause tuberculosis
viruses, such as Herpes simplex
Following are some of the risk factors for meningitis in children:
chronic diseases, such as diabetes or sickle cell anemia
conditions that weaken the immune system, such as cancer or HIV
day care, preschool, or other large gatherings of children
infections that involve the face and sinuses, such as cellulitis or sinusitis
poor or crowded conditions
severe illness in newborns
viral illnesses, such as measles, mumps, or rubella