Meningitis, a swelling of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord, has a number of symptoms which can vary from patient to patient. One of the classic ones is meningitis rash, though not all patients have it. It is a distinctive skin rash (more difficult to fade). It can quickly spread throughout the body – but can you also get it on face?
There are several causes of the disease. In most cases, it’s caused by viral infection. Sometimes, it is a consequence of bacterial infection – and rarely due to fungal infection. The infection causes inflammation of meninges, the collective name for 3 main membranes that cover your brain and spinal cord.
Viral meningitis is relatively easier to treat. Many times, home treatments are enough to make it relieve. On the other hand, bacterial meningitis is more difficult to treat – even it could be dangerous or life-threatening, and therefore it usually requires hospitalization.
The disease is more common in children and babies. In fact viral meningitis, the most common type of the disease, is often found in those under age 5. Bacterial meningitis is less common in young children and babies, since it is common at older age (those under 20 years old). But in general, the disease can affect people of all ages.
Early symptoms of the disease can be vogue. Many patients experience non-specific early symptoms such as a general feeling of poor health /unwell, tiredness, or fever. Those symptoms can be attributed by lots of things – a common cold event, for example.
At first, the symptoms may look like a less serious condition. You may think that it is a mild viral illness. But since meningitis could be fatal, use your instinct! If the symptoms get worse, seek immediate medical help!
The classic symptoms of the disease include:
- Abnormal skin rash.
- Neck stiffness, though it is not common in young children with meningitis.
- Dislike of lights (especially bright lights).
- Delirious /confusion.
- And seizures (in severe case).
Although those classic symptoms are common in people with meningitis, sometimes some may not be present. For example, skin rash and neck stiffness may not occur in some cases.
Other symptoms of the disease are as follows:
- Nausea and vomiting with unknown reason.
- Headache that seems different than normal. In some cases, it may come together with nausea or/and vomiting.
- Sudden high temperature (fever).
- Even though people with meningitis often have fever, they may also have cold hands or feet.
- Thirst or/and poor appetite.
- Drowsiness, difficult to keep awake (sleepiness).
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Muscle and joint pain.
- Breathing quickly.
Additionally, in babies and younger children, you should look for the following symptoms:
- Constant crying (high pitched) and they may refuse feeds.
- A bulging fontenell on the top of the head.
- Irritability and sleepiness.
- Unresponsive, inactivity, listless, or floppy. Sometimes jerky movements with stiffness in baby’s body may occur.
- Difficult, unusual rapid breathing.
Can you get meningitis rash on face?
Skin rash is common in people with meningitis, especially those with bacterial meningitis due to meningococcal bacterial. It doesn’t occur in all cases, but it can be quite characteristic of the disease.
Meningococcal bacteria are able to thrive and reproduce in the circulation (bloodstream). It also can release poisons which can be serious. Furthermore, blood vessels can get damaged and blood leaks into tissue under the skin. Therefore immediate treatment is necessary.
At first, the classic skin rash associated with meningitis starts with one or two like tiny pinpricks. Sometimes the spots may occur in groups – and they could be red, pink, or purple. Over a few hours or days, many may then appear anywhere on the body, including face.
The spots of meningitis rash often grow to turn into purple /red blotchy. They can look like bruises.
It is usually harder to spot them if your skin is dark. For such case, check all over the body (especially in lighter-skinned areas like soles or palms)!
Unlike many other rashes, meningitis rash doesn’t fade when pressed. To check for this, put a glass firmly on the spots of your rash. If they don’t fade and you can clearly see them through the glass, this may signal meningitis or even septicaemia – see a doctor immediately!
Meningitis vs. septicaemia!
The bad news, skin rash in people with meningitis may also signal another serious condition called sepsis or septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Both conditions are different diseases, but some people with meningitis can have septicaemia. And septicaemia can occur with or without meningitis.
According to the NICE Clinical Guideline published in June 2010, many patients with meningitis experience symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. For example, both diseases can lead to skin rash – as well as fever, drowsiness, and confusion.
But people with septicaemia are more likely to experience the following classic symptoms of the disease: