How Is Meningitis Treated?

Doctors isolate patients with possible meningitis and immediately start them on intravenous antibiotics before they determine whether it’s bacterial or viral meningitis.

If the diagnosis turns out to be viral meningitis, the antibiotic treatment is stopped, because antibiotics have no effect on the viruses. In fact, there is no treatment for viral meningitis, the illness must simply run its course.

Rest, fluids, and good nutrition, as well as measures to control fever and relieve pain, will ease discomfort and aid in recovery from viral meningitis.

Patients with bacterial meningitis receive intravenous antibiotics for a week or more.

Nice To Know

The overuse of antibiotics generally has created several bacterial strains that are resistant to common drugs, complicating treatment in some cases. This happens most frequently in cases caused by streptococcus pneumoniae.

In more severe cases, a patient needs medication to control seizures or must be put on a ventilator to assist with breathing. If excessive pressure builds up inside the skull, a small tube is sometimes inserted into the meninges to relieve the pressure.

Drugs such as dexamethasone ( a steroid, different from the steroids abused by bodybuilders, that can reduce swelling of the brain) are sometimes given to reduce inflammation or to reduce the chance, or spread, of septicemiaThey are usually only given in severe cases where the response to antibiotics has been slow.

  • The usefulness of dexamethasone has been debated. Studies have shown that children with H influenzae type B infection who were given dexamethasone had fewer after-effects, such as hearing loss. However, doctors are concerned that dexamethasone can make it harder for antibiotics to reach the infection.

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