Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges).

  • It can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults.
  • Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly.
  • You should get medical advice as soon as possible if you're concerned that you or your child could have meningitis.

Common signs and symptoms of meningitis in babies and toddlers:

These symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear.

  • Fever
  • Vomiting and refusing feeds
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Skin that is pale, blotchy or turning blue
  • a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop)
  • Rapid or unusual patterns of breathing
  • Irritability, especially when picked up
  • Weak, high pitched or continuous cry
  • Floppiness and listlessness, or stiffness with jerky movements
  • Drowsiness, less responsive vacant or difficult to wake
  • A stiff neck
  • A bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby's head)
  • Shivering

Signs and symptoms in OLDER CHILDREN and ADULTS develop suddenly and can include :

  • a high temperature (fever) over 37.5C (99.5F)
  • being sick
  • headache
  • a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop)
  • stiff neck
  • a dislike of bright lights
  • drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • seizures (fits)

How to Look After A Child With A Temperature

A fever is a high temperature. As a general rule, in children a temperature of over 37.5C (99.5F) is a fever.

As a parent it can be extremely worrying if your child has a high temperature. However, it's very common and often clears up by itself without treatment. 

What causes a high temperature?

  • Most fevers are caused by infections or other illnesses. The high body temperature makes it more difficult for the bacteria and viruses that cause infections to survive.

How to care for your feverish child

  • encourage them to drink plenty of fluids – offer regular breastfeeds if you're breastfeeding
  • only offer them food if they seem to want it
  • look out for signs of dehydration – these can include a dry mouth, no tears, sunken eyes and, in babies, fewer wet nappies and a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the head)
  • check on your child from time to time during the night
  • keep them away from childcare, nursery or school – let the carer, nursery or school know your child is unwell
  • If your child seems distressed, consider giving them children's paracetamol or ibuprofen. These shouldn't be given together

When to seek urgent medical advice

Contact your GP or health visitor urgently if your child:

  • is under three months old and has a temperature of 38C (101F) or above
  • is between three and six months old and has a temperature of 39C (102F) or above
  • you think your child may be dehydrated
  • your child develops a red rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • your child has a fit (convulsion)
  • your child is inconsolable and doesn't stop crying, or has a high-pitched or unusual sound when crying
  • the fever lasts for more than five days
  • your child's health is getting worse
  • you have any concerns about looking after your child at home
  • persistent vomiting
  • floppiness or drowsiness.


(NHS - the first day a rash appears as small red patches about 3-4mm across. Within a few hours, small blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the next three or four days further patches will appear and the earlier ones will turn 'crusty' and fall off.

  • Calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching
  • Cool baths may also help
  • The most infectious period is from two or three days before the rash appears and up to five days after this date. Children may return to school as soon as the last 'crusts' have dropped off
  • Try to avoid pregnant women and peopl with impaired immune systems eg the elderly


(NHS -

The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness. It is at its most infectious from two or three days before the rash appears until eight to ten days after that date. You will have a high temperature

  • Immunisation can prevent this disease

German Measles (Rubella)

The rash appears during the first day and usually covers the body, arms and legs in small pink patches about 2-4mm across and doesn't itch. No other symptoms are usually present apart from occasional aching joints.

  • It is infectious from two days before the rash appears, until the rash disappears in about four or five days from that date
  • The only danger is to unborn babies and, therefore, it is important that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can contact their doctor
  • Immunisation can prevent this disease


(NHS -

  • Symptoms are: Swelling of the gland in front of one ear often followed, after a couple of days by swelling in front of the other ear.
  • It is infectious from two or three days before the swelling appears until eight to ten days after that date
  • If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor
  • Immunisation can prevent this disease

Sticky Eyes

Conjunctivitis is a common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye (the conjunctiva).

The three most common causes of this inflammation are:

  • infection (infective conjunctivitis)
  • an allergic reaction (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • something irritating the conjunctiva, such as a loose eyelash (irritant conjunctivitis)

The recommended treatment for conjunctivitis will depend on the cause.

See your GP immediately if you have:

  • eye pain
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • disturbed vision
  • intense redness in one eye or both eyes
  • a newborn baby with conjunctivitis

Infective conjunctivitis

Most cases of infective conjunctivitis don't need medical treatment and clear up in one to two weeks.

  • Gently clean away sticky discharge from your eyelids and lashes using cotton wool soaked in water. You can boil and cool water to ensure it is sterile.
  • Wash your hands regularly – this is particularly important after touching your eyes and will stop the infection spreading to others.
  • Remove your contact lenses – if you wear contact lenses, take them out until all the symptoms of the infection have gone; don't re-use old lenses after the infection has gone because they could be a potential source of re-infection; always use new lenses, solutions and cases after an infection.
  • Use lubricant eye drops – these are available over the counter at pharmacies or they may be prescribed for you; they may help ease any soreness and stickiness in your eyes; always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Antibiotics aren't usually prescribed for infective conjunctivitis because it usually clears up by itself and there's a very low risk of complications for untreated conjunctivitis.
  • However, if the infection is particularly severe or it has lasted for more than two weeks, you may be prescribed antibiotics

Allergic conjunctivitis

Your treatment will depend on the type of allergic conjunctivitis you have.

The four main types of allergic conjunctivitis are:

  • seasonal conjunctivitis –typically caused by an allergy to pollen
  • perennial conjunctivitis –usually caused by an allergy to dust mites or pets
  • contact dermatoconjunctivitis –usually caused by an allergy to eye drops or cosmetics
  • giant papillary conjunctivitis –usually caused by an allergy to contact lenses

Whatever the cause, you'll find that some self-help methods can ease your symptoms. If you have allergic conjunctivitis, you can follow the guidelines below to treat your condition at home.

  • If you wear contact lenses, take them out until all the signs and symptoms of the conjunctivitis have gone.
  • Don't rub your eyes, even though they may be itchy. Rubbing your eyes can make your symptoms worse.
  • Place a cool compress over your eyes. Wetting a flannel with cool water and holding it over your eyes will help ease your symptoms.
  • Avoid exposure to the allergen, if possible.

If you have seasonal or perennial conjunctivitis, you may be prescribed the following medicines:

  • antihistamines 
  • mast cell stabilisers
  • corticosteroids


 Earache is a common problem, particularly in children. It can be worrying, but it's usually only caused by a minor infection and will often get better in a few days without treatment.

It's not always necessary to see your GP if you or your child have earache. The pain will often improve in a few days and there are things you can do to help in the meantime.

What you can do at home

  • You can use over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen*** to treat the pain. Children under the age of 16 should not take aspirin.
  • Placing a warm flannel against the affected ear may also help relieve the pain.
  • You should contact your GP or local out-of-hours service if: 
  • your child also has other symptoms, such as a high temperature (fever), vomiting, a severe sore throat, swelling around the ear, or discharge from the ear
  • there is something stuck in your or your child's ear
  • the earache doesn't improve within a few days


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