Viral Meningitis 

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining (meninges) that covers your brain and spinal cord. It may cause headache, stiff neck, irritability, fever, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting.

Most cases of meningitis are caused by infections from bacteria or viruses. Bacterial meningitis is often more serious. It may cause permanent complications. You would need to be treated in the hospital with antibiotics. But your tests show that you have viral meningitis. This is usually much less serious. It rarely causes any complications. You can take care of a mild case at home. Some cases of viral meningitis need antiviral medicines.

Most cases of viral meningitis are passed from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and close contact. West Nile virus is a rare cause of viral meningitis. It's passed by mosquito bites.

Antibiotics are not used to treat viral meningitis. You may be given other medicines to treat your symptoms. It will take 2 to 7 days to recover from viral meningitis. You may have headaches that come and go for up to 2 weeks.

In rare cases, what looks like viral meningitis may turn out to be early bacterial meningitis. That’s why it’s important to be rechecked. Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or new symptoms appear.

Home care

Follow these tips when taking care of yourself at home:

  • Rest in bed until you are feeling better. Stay home from school or work for at least 7 days, or until all symptoms are gone.

  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and to relieve pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your healthcare provider before taking these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease.. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding. Don’t give aspirin to anyone younger than 18 years old who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.

  • If you have a fever, drink extra water, sports drinks, or other fluids. This will keep you from getting dehydrated.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water to prevent spreading the infection.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. This is to make sure you are getting better as expected.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Headache or stiff neck that gets worse

  • Drowsiness, confusion, or bizarre behavior

  • You can’t keep fluids down because of vomiting

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised

  • Weakness or numbness in an arm or leg

  • Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking

  • Seizure

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