Babies are not even aware that they are stepping out from a safe environment to a world where they are vulnerable to infections and other diseases.
A child can get ill due to many viruses and bacterias present in our surroundings. Today I will discuss yet another disease which is caused by both a virus and a bacteria. People of any age can get Meningitis but here I will discuss it in babies only.
So the first question, what is meningitis? It is a condition which causes swelling to be appropriate inflammation in the meninges of the brain and the spinal cord. Meninges are the protective layers around the spinal cord and the brain. Since here I am discussing its effect in babies, thus it should be known that babies who are younger than 2 months are at a greater risk of getting meningitis. Meningitis could be fatal in some babies while in others it may have lasting effects. Having said this, serious complications can be avoided with on-time treatment.
When meningitis strikes it can quickly spread and become serious. Some babies become irritable but still, an awareness of the symptoms is must so that medical treatment can be started. The common symptoms in babies are:
- Bulging of the fontanel. Fontanel is the soft spot on the head. This bulging is due to an increase in the pressure or accumulation of fluid in the brain
- Hands and feet will be cold while the stomach may be warm
- Chills may be experienced irrespective of fever
- Stiff neck. This leads to stiffness in the child and they may hold their head tilted back with the body in a stiff position
- Irritable and cranky baby. Does not like to be picked up
- Refuse to eat food
- Constant vomiting
- Heavy breathing
- Red rashes or marks visible on the body
- Sleepy baby so much so that it is impossible to wake them from their sleep
If you notice that a baby has a fever along with a rash and looks ill seek immediate treatment.
What causes meningitis in babies
In babies, meningitis can be caused by virus or bacterias. Bacterial meningitis is considered to be more dangerous than viral one, though immediate treatment is required in both. Different bacteria and viruses cause this condition.
Bacterial Meningitis: As mentioned these may be of different types. Commonly the bacteria may be passed from a mother to her baby or through coughing, sneezing, kissing and through saliva. Some bacteria also pass to a baby when a mother eats contaminated food. This is mostly at the time of delivery.
Viral Meningitis: These include viruses like influenza (coughing, sneezing), Herpes Simplex Virus (kissing and an infected mother can pass it to her baby), Varicella-zoster virus (breathing, talking and coming in contact with infected blisters). These viruses do not cause meningitis in adults. Since the immune system in babies is not fully developed they are prone to develop meningitis through these viruses.
Meningitis can spread from one person to another. In this case, it is important to protect babies since their immune system is not developed fully and they have not received all their vaccines. Here are some ways by which we can protect babies not only from meningitis but also from other illnesses:
- Avoid taking the newborn to a crowded place
- Discourage people from kissing babies for the fact that they may have sores or other infections which could be passed on to the baby
- Keep baby away from large crowds and people who have a fever, or are sneezing and coughing
- Encourage people to wash their hands before touching the baby
- Ensure that your hands are washed and bottles are sterilised when preparing milk for them
- Avoid taking the babies outside in the evening when the mosquito activity is at its prime
- Do not expose a baby to cigarette smoke as this increases the risk of viral and bacterial illnesses
These tips do make sense. A newborn should be protected. We should not put them at risk as they have an underdeveloped immune system.
A – Autism, B – Bronchiolitis, C – Celiac Disease, D – Dyslexia, E – Eating Disorders, F – Fever, G – GERD, H – Hand Foot And Mouth Disease (HFMD), I – Imaginary Friends, J – Juvenile Arthritis, K – Kawasaki Disease, L – Leukaemia