Meningitis means swelling and inflammation of the lining round your brain. This lining is inside your head and down your spinal cord - the bit of your brain that runs down inside your back bone. This lining is called the meninges and therefore when it gets inflamed it is called meningitis. It is caused by several different bugs - usually a bacteria or a virus.
- Viral meningitis is more common and less serious. Usually you just get a headache and feel unwell for a bit. It may not even make you feel bad enough to go to the doctor - and it isn't worth going. Viral meningitis gets better on its own and antibiotics are a waste of time and money. They also increase the chances of the odd bacteria in your body becoming resistant to later treatment.
- Bacterial Meningitis is the worrying one. There are two main types, caused by bugs called meningococcus and pneumococcus. There used to be a third bug called hemophilus influenza, but that kind has almost disappeared now that children are immunised against it. Bacterial meningitis needs to be treated with antibiotics, fast. People with bacterial meningitis are usually very unwell, and become so very quickly. Early on you may have a fever and headache, and your neck may be stiff and you might find it uncomfortable to look at the light. You may also feel sick, and throw up. A rash can sometimes appear later and is not a good sign.