Advice intended for parents/carers taking their child home on intravenous antibiotics
Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). It can affect any age group, but we see it most commonly in babies, young children and teenagers.
Your child was probably very unwell when you first brought them to hospital.They are now well enough to go home but need to complete their course of intravenous (into the bloodstream) antibiotics. There are things you need to look out for at home which we have discussed below.
You will no doubt have lots of other questions, please ask the team looking after your child, the following organisations also have excellent information on their websites.
Meningitis can be caused by bacterial or viral infections. In the case of your child, we think that the cause was likely to be a bacterial infection. It is hard to say how your child will have caught the infection. People can carry bacteria in their nose and throats but aren’t necessarily ill with it. Whether or not people are ill, they can then spread these bacteria by sneezing, coughing, kissing or sharing household objects. Most children don’t tend to get unwell when they are carrying these bacteria but unfortunately a small number do.
All children with suspected bacterial meningitis will be started on intravenous (into the bloodstream) antibiotics to treat the common causes of meningitis until we have more information from test results. Your child will have likely undergone blood tests and a lumbar puncture; we test these samples to see if there was a specific bacteria causing the meningitis. We don’t always get an answer, but if we do this helps us to decide which antibiotic we need to use and for how long.
Most children will be able to come home for part of their treatment course. These children would come into hospital daily for their antibiotics to be given or a community nurse would come out to administer them at home.
Once your child is on treatment for meningitis and is well enough to go home most children will be recovering well. Occasionally children may have complications of meningitis whilst being treated. This would generally be associated with a return of fever, return of the original symptoms your child displayed before they received treatment or abnormal movements (seizure). If any of these occur, your child will have to be seen urgently and may need to undergo further investigations or procedures. It is very important that your child is reviewed by medical staff if they show any signs of failure to improve or deterioration; look out for any symptoms they showed when they first came to hospital:
If you are concerned that your child’s condition is getting worse, you should contact the hospital urgently – you’ll find the contact details on the information you were provided with when your child was discharged.
CALL 999 FOR AN AMBULANCE IF YOU HAVE SERIOUS CONCERNS FOR YOUR CHILD.