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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Meningitis in Infants and Children
      Category : Health Centers > Brain and Nervous System

Meningitis in Infants and Children

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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
  • head injury
  • infections that involve the face and sinuses, such as cellulitis or sinusitis
  • poor or crowded conditions
  • septic arthritis
  • severe illness in newborns
  • viral illnesses, such as measles, mumps, or rubella


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    Meningitis in Infants and Children: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 06/27/01

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