Meningitis is serious. If you think your child may have meningitis, don’t wait. See your doctor right away. Insist on medical help, day or night.

Antibiotics are used for bacterial meningitis and save lives. Babies and children with meningitis can get sick very quickly. You need to seek medical help urgently even if you have seen a doctor within the last hour or two.

Meningitis is when the lining of the brain and spinal cord are infected and become inflamed (swollen). Different types of meningitis are caused by bacterial or viral infections.

If your child has meningitis, they may have these following symptoms. They do not need to have all of them and some do not show at first.

Your child may:

  • have a fever
  • be fretful
  • cry often with a high-pitched, moaning sort of cry
  • often refuse feeds
  • vomit
  • be in a deep sleep and not easy to wake
  • have pale or blotchy skin, sometimes with a rash like pinpricks, or red to purple spots or bruising on the skin.

Even one spot is important. This may be a later sign of meningitis and does not happen in all types of meningitis.

Older children may also:

  • have a stiff neck
  • have a headache
  • have joint pain and aching muscles
  • not like bright lights
  • be drowsy, confused, delirious or unconscious.

All children may have fits or convulsions.

Information on the Meningococcal B epidemic and the immunisation programme can be found at or freephone 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).


For help and advice call PlunketLine 0800 933 922, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If your child is sick please call Healthline, 0800 611 116, New Zealand's 24-hour telephone health advice service. All calls are answered by registered nurses.
In an emergency phone 111.
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