Meningitis Center

Meningitis Treatment

Meningitis treatment
The body's immune system may be able to fight off meningitis on its own, or it may require immediate, emergency treatment. Because meningitis can have such severe consequences, seek emergency medical care if you suspect that you or someone else has meningitis; infections can spread quickly.  

Only a doctor will be able to determine what type of meningitis you have, and the appropriate treatment.  If you are in close contact with someone who has meningitis, talk with your doctor so that you can take medication - if necessary - to avoid contracting meningitis yourself.  In generally, treatments for meningitis vary depending upon the cause.  Ultimately, the goal of treatment will be to allow for recovery, and to reduce complications.  Let's take a look at possible treatments for meningitis now.

1. Treating bacterial meningitis - Immunizations are effective for preventing certain types of bacterial meningitis.  These include:

  • Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine: Children regularly receive this in the United States, at age 2 or more. Some adults should seek this vaccine also, including those who have AIDS, removal of their spleen, or those with sickle cell disease.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7): Children younger than 2 years old regularly receive this vaccine in the United States. Some children between the ages of 2 to 5 also get this vaccination, especially for those susceptible to pnemococcal disease.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV).People with weak immune systems or chronic diseases (heart disease) or older adults may have this vaccination.
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4).Children as young as 2 years old may be given this vaccination, but it is typically given between the ages of 11 to 18.

Bacterial meningitis is treated with special kinds of antibiotics intravenously to allow for recovery, and as few complications as possible (e.g. hearing loss).  Different bacterial strains require different antibiotics, or combinations of antibiotics.  If your doctor is waiting for test results for a specific strain, s/he may prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic.  Treatment of bacterial meningitis with antibiotics may reduce the risk of death to as low as 15%.  

Additionally, your doctor will look for symptoms of complications:  brain swelling; convulsions; dehydration; shock; etc.  You may be given intravenous fluids to treat dehydration if you are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.  Excessive fluid may need to be drained from sinuses, the bones behind the outer ear (mastoids), and between the brain and the meninges.

2. Treating fungal meningitis - Rare cases of fungal meningitis are treated with antifungal agents, applied intravenously or orally.

3. Treating viral meningitis - Luckily, most cases of viral meningitis are not as severe as cases of bacterial meningitis.  However, viral meningitis cannot be treated by antibiotics.  Your doctor may recommend rest, fluids, and medications to reduce body aches and fever.  If viral meningitis is caused by herpes, your doctor may prescribe a medication specifically for herpes.  Most cases of viral meningitis are treated within one or two weeks.

While the above treatments are successful in treating bacterial or viral meningitis once a patient already has it, preventative methods may also prove successful.  These include such practices as: cooking meat completely, avoiding unpasteurized cheeses, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; remaining healthy; and washing your hands.

Because meningitis can lead to shock and death within just a few days, it is important to contact your physician or 911 as soon as you suspect that you might have meningitis.  Treatment may be available for your exact type of meningitis, but first requires accurate diagnosis.  Complications can further require their own separate treatment.  In any case, you should definitely start treatment as quickly as possible to reduce complications.  

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