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Treatment. Meningitis

By Editorial Team (A)
January 31, 2022

Meningitis treatment

Bacterial meningitis

It is essential to treat acute bacterial meningitis immediately. To do so, doctors prescribe intravenous antibiotics and, in some cases, corticosteroids. This treatment helps ensure the patient’s recovery and decreases the risk of developing complications like seizures and brain swelling.

The antibiotics used to treat bacterial meningitis depend on the type of bacteria responsible for the infection. Sometimes, the tests may take some time to provide the doctor with this information. Until needed details are available, your physician may prescribe meningitis treatment that involves broad-spectrum antibiotics. Such medications are effective against several different types of organisms.

If the sinuses or the bones that lie behind the ear’s outer portion and connect to the middle ear (the mastoids) are infected, the doctor may drain them.

Viral meningitis

Antibiotics do not help treat viral meningitis. In most instances, it resolves within a few weeks without treatment. If the case of viral meningitis is mild, helpful home remedies usually include: 

  • increased fluid intake
  • staying in bed and resting
  • taking non-prescription medications to help relieve pain and reduce fever associated with meningitis

In addition, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce swelling in the brain and anticonvulsant medications to control seizures. Notably, if a herpes virus has caused the infection, your physician can prescribe antiviral medicines.

Other types of meningitis

Sometimes it is difficult to determine the cause of meningitis. If it is the case, the physician may start both an antibiotic and an antiviral medication until the cause is identified.

Treatment for chronic meningitis depends on the underlying cause. For example, antifungal medications are used to treat fungal meningitis. Similarly, tuberculous meningitis can be treated with a combination of antibiotics. However, it is worth mentioning that these medications can cause severe side effects. For this reason, treatment with antifungal drugs doesn’t start until the cause of the meningitis is determined to be fungal.
Treatment of noninfectious meningitis resulting from an autoimmune disorder or an allergic reaction may include corticosteroid drugs. In some cases, meningitis may resolve without any treatment. Meningitis associated with cancer requires a specific therapy to manage cancer itself.

How to prevent meningitis

Meningitis is most often the result of an infection transmitted from person to person. The viruses and bacteria that commonly cause meningitis can spread by sneezing, coughing, sharing silverware or straws, kissing, or sharing a cigarette or toothbrush. If you work or live with someone who has meningitis, you are at increased risk of developing the disease. Luckily, you can take steps to help reduce your chances of getting meningitis, including: 

  • Wash your hands properly: Careful hand-washing includes covering the back and the front of both hands with soap and rubbing the surfaces vigorously, then rinsing well under running water. It is essential to wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating, after petting animals, and after spending time in public crowds. Teach your children when and how to wash their hands properly. Hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of infections, including those causing meningitis.
  • Follow good hygiene practices: Avoid sharing anything that goes in or near your mouth: toothbrushes, lip balms, food, drink or straws, silverware, etc. Teach your children to be “selfish” with these items, too.
  • Practice healthy habits: Keep your immune system strong through regular exercises, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains.
  • Cover your mouth: If you’re sick, stay home. When you sneeze or cough, ensure that you cover your nose and mouth.
  • If you are pregnant, be aware of listeria sources: You can reduce the risk of developing listeria infection by cooking all meat, including deli meat and hot dogs, to 165 Fahrenheit (74 Celsius). Avoid soft cheeses like Camembert, Brie, queso, feta, and any dairy products made from unpasteurized milk.

Meningitis immunization

The following immunizations can help prevent some types of bacterial meningitis: 

  • Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine: There is a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to do this vaccine for children starting at about two months of age. In addition, this vaccination may be recommended for some groups of adults, for example, those with AIDS, sickle cell diseases, or who don’t have a spleen.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): The CDC and WHO also recommend this vaccine for children younger than two years. Aside from that, additional doses of this vaccine are recommended for high-risk children between 2 and 5 years old. They include children who have cancer, chronic lung or heart disease.
  • Haemophilus influenza type b and Neisseria meningitidis serogroups C and Y vaccine (Hib-MenCY): This immunization is given in a series of 4 doses to children between the ages of 2 months and 15 months who are at increased risk for developing meningococcal meningitis. This group includes children with sickle cell anemia and those whose spleen is not functioning correctly.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend this vaccine for all people over 65 years old, those who do not have a spleen, and children (older than two years) and adults with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions, including diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and heart disease.
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: This vaccine is recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 11 and 12 years of age, with a booster given at 16 years. If the first vaccine is given between 13 and 15 years, the booster vaccine should be done at the age between 16 and 18. No booster is needed if the first dose is given after the child is 16. In addition, this vaccine can be done in children between the ages of 2 months and 10 years if they are at high risk of bacterial meningitis or were exposed to someone with the condition. It is also used for the immunization of healthy but unvaccinated people who have been exposed during outbreaks.

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