It always tends to occur at this time of year that there is a rise in the number of cases of meningitis especially at Universities when you get a large number of people coming together from all different regions of the country. Its currently Fresher’s Week at the Universities across the UK and it’s really important that people are aware of the symptoms because of the drastic effects that it can have. The Meningitis Research Foundation are recording that one person a day will become ill with meningitis and 1 in 10 of those will die. If you do get medical treatment early for meningitis or meningococcal septicaemia with strong antibiotics you can be cured but it can strike very quickly with no warning. It’s also common that teenagers will just disappear off to bed if they feel ill rather than younger kids who will make more noise about feeling ill.
This week the Meningitis Research Foundation is releasing an iPhone App, similar to the one released by the Meningitis Trust, in an attempt to reach out to these young people so that they can have help at hand and to be able to check symptoms. Often the initial symptoms of meningitis can be mis-diagnosed as flu or a stomach bug, but can develop very quickly.
The main early symptoms of meningitis are fever, headache, feeling sick, being sick, muscle pain, cold hands and feet and a dislike of bright lights. You may only get one of the symptoms or all of them, but you will quickly start to feel very unwell. The blotchy rash that is often associated with meningitis is caused by meningococcal septicaemia and is caused by blood leaking into the tissues under the skin, but don’t wait for a rash before you get treatment. If a rash does appear you need to do the “glass test” by pressing a glass onto the rash and if it doesn’t disappear under pressure get to a doctor quick.
As some of you may know my youngest son Ethan had both meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia in 2005 when he was just about to turn 3. He spent 2 weeks in St James’ Hospital in Leeds, with 4 days in Intensive Care surrounded by tubes and machines. I’ve never seen someone as ill as Ethan was, and the doctors were telling us to take it hour by hour to see if he would recover. We were very fortunate that he got his first dose of antibiotics at the local hospital just as the blotchy spots had started to appear and were a very pale pink. It was only a few hours later that he was covered in dark purple spots and was on a ventilator, in an emergency ambulance, on his way to St. James’ intensive care unit. I am forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who treated him, and thank whoever is maybe up there looking after us for saving him.