Meningitis and Septicaemia are deadly diseases that can develop very quickly and kill in hours. A vaccine is available for some strains, but there is no vaccine available for the most common strain of meningitis: Meningococcal Group B. Meningitis and Septicaemia can happen to anyone of any age. Meningitis is swelling of the Meninges which are the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord, the inflammation usually results from an infection.

Septicaemia is blood poisoning Meningitis and septicaemia can occur together or separately. Jonnie Peacock who beat Oscar Pistorias in the Paralympic 100 metres had contracted Meningitis when he was 5 years old and it was this disease that led to his right leg being amputated. Meningitis can cause life changing problems and kill within hours and it is crucially important to identify the signs and symptoms early and get medical help fast. There are an estimated 3,300 cases of Meningitis and septicaemia every year in the UK and Ireland. This means that every day nine people become ill with the diseases.  With one in ten people dying, a death will occur almost every day. A further two people will be left with life-altering after effects as severe as brain damage, deafness and multiple amputations. The two forms of the disease have different symptoms. People who recover from meningitis and septicaemia may be left with a range of after effects that dramatically alter their lives. Meningitis is usually bacterial or viral, and occasionally is due to fungal infections, although almost any microbe can cause it. In third world Countries people catch it by living in very close proximity to each other. In the UK people tend to self-infect following an infection somewhere else in the body. Occasionally Meningitis can occur following a severe head injury. Viral meningitis can be very unpleasant but it is hardly ever life threatening and most people make a full recovery. Bacterial meningitis is more serious and can be caused by a range of different bacteria. Most cases in the UK and Ireland are caused by meningococcal bacteria and there is no vaccine for this. Meningitis and septicaemia can be hard to recognise at first. Symptoms can appear in any order, but the first symptoms are usually fever – particularly with cold hands and feet, vomiting, headache and feeling generally unwell. ·         A rash may not appear at all – but if the person is unwell and you see a rash which does not disappear when pressure is applied to it (the tumbler test) – CALL AN AMBULANCE  DO NOT WAIT FOR A RASH and TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. if you are concerned seek Medical Advice fast and if you have had Medical Advice and are still unhappy – contact them again


Classic symptoms:

  • a headache
  • stiff neck
  • dislike of bright light

Other symptoms can include:

  • difficulty supporting own weight
  • fever
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • confusion and drowsiness

Meningococcal septicaemia

Common symptoms:

  • aching limbs (particularly leg pain)
  • cold hands and feet
  • a rash which starts like pin prick spots and develops rapidly into purple bruising

Other symptoms may include:

  • difficulty supporting own weight
  • fever
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • confusion and drowsiness
  • difficulty breathing
  • change in skin colour

Other meningitis symptoms particular to toddlers and babies:· Refusing to eat/feed·Irritable, not wanting to be held/touched · A stiff body, with jerky movements, or floppy, unable to stand up. A tense or bulging soft spot on the head (fontanelle)·         A high pitched or moaning cry The Meningitis Trust  offers a 24 hour Helpline  0808 80 10 388 as does the Meningitis Research Foundation: UK: 080 8800 3344 REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: 1800 41 33 44

Meningitis – what to look out for – Click to watch a helpful video from the Meningitis Trust Meningitis_signs_and_symptoms_card  click on the link to download   Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit: for more information about our courses.First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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