Key Points About Meningitis in Children
- Meningitis is an inflammation of the thin membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord.
- It is most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection that moves into the cerebral spinal fluid. A fungus or parasite may also cause meningitis.
- Meningitis caused by a virus is more common and usually less severe. Bacterial meningitis is usually more severe and may lead to long-term complications or death.
- An infection usually starts in the respiratory tract. In a child, it may first cause a cold, sinus infection or ear infection. It can then go into the bloodstream and reach the brain and spinal cord.
- A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is the only test that diagnoses meningitis. A needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal.
- Several vaccines are available to prevent some of the bacterial and viral infections that can cause meningitis.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Infectious Diseases Treatment at Children's National Hospital
Our Division of Infectious Diseases is the major referral center for infectious diseases in the Washington, D.C., area, helping thousands of young patients each year with contagious conditions. Discover more about the treatments we offer.
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Providers Who Treat Meningitis
Departments that Treat Meningitis
Critical Care Medicine
With the only pediatric, cardiac and neuro-intensive care units in the immediate Washington, D.C., area, Children's National Hospital is the region's leading provider of critical care medicine for seriously ill and injured infants and children.
Critical Care Neurology
Children's National Hospital provides compassionate and expert pediatric neurologic care for critically ill and injured children.
Our Division of Infectious Diseases is the major referral center for infectious diseases in the Washington, D.C., area, helping thousands of patients each year, and actively promoting prevention through community outreach and education.