“You always get a rash with Meningitis.” Or, “There is no rash, it can’t be Meningitis.”
This is one of the biggest myths, and has sadly, been known to kill.
A rash does not always appear in cases of Meningitis. If Meningitis is suspected, please DO NOT wait for a rash to appear, and seek immediate medical attention.
The fact is that the rash is actually a sign of blood poisoning (Septicaemia), and is often, though not always one of the last symptoms of meningitis to show (Meningococcal Septicaemia). But symptoms of meningitis can show in any order.
I contracted Pneumococcal Meningitis in September 2015, and I did not have a rash. From what I was told that in my case, Meningitis was suspected early on, and treatment was started soon after admission to hospital. It is probably why I not only survived, but was able to make a full recovery.
From what I know, a rash is rare in cases of Pneumococcal Meningitis, but if does show in many of the other strains; in particular, Meningitis B. But again, as I say, if you suspect meningitis, don’t wait for a rash. It might not show, and even if it does, it could well be too late by then.
“Meningitis is only dangerous in young children and babies!” A similar myth is that it “only affects babies and children under 5.”
Whilst it is correct that babies and children under the age of 5 are the group most at risk, the fact is that it can affect, and indeed, can kill anyone, at any age. I was in my late forties when I contracted Meningitis, and I read stories on various meningitis websites of people older than me succumbing to the disease. I was on the main ward and out of the Intensive Care Unit 2 or 3 days at that point when I read one story that particularly upset me. Admittedly, it was not what I wanted to read whilst I was recovering.
“Viral Meningitis is a milder form of Bacterial Meningitis.”
The fact is that although Viral Meningitis rarely kills, it can still have the same debilitating effects as the Bacterial version during the early stages (stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, severe headache, vomiting, confusion, slow to respond, agitated etc.). During those early stages, there is no way to tell whether a patient has a Viral or Bacterial strain of the disease without various tests being performed by doctors. So if Meningitis is suspected at all, whether it turns out to be Viral or Bacterial, it must always be treated initially as a medical emergency.
Although most people do make a full recovery from Viral Meningitis, some people are left with a life changing disability, such as headaches, memory loss, anxiety, depression, hearing problems, sight problems, exhaustion to name but a few. For some others, recovery can be a long, slow process.
“You wont get Meningitis if you have been vaccinated.”
That is partially correct. While there are now an increasing number of vaccines available for various strains of Meningitis, they will only protect against the strain or strains that it has been designed for. Sadly, you wont be protected against another strain that you have not been immunised for, or for where there is currently no vaccine available. Despite the progress in recent years, there are still many strains of Meningitis that currently have no vaccine. Some vaccines have only been recently introduced, and priority is currently being given to those groups considered most at risk from those strains.
The UK charity, Meningitis Now, have a list of what Meningitis Vaccines are currently available.
This is only a snapshot of the Meningitis myths. For me, the most important one is the one at the top. Again, I repeat what I said earlier:
A rash does not always develop with Meningitis, so, if Meningitis is suspected, seek immediate medical attention. Don’t wait for a rash to appear. It could be too late by then.