Meningitis

Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the three meninges, which are thin membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The infection can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. Hemophilus influenzae, or “H. flu.,” is the most common among the bacterial organisms that cause meningitis in children. An infection in the blood (bacteremia), ears, jaw, or sinuses can also lead to an infection of the meninges.


A newborn with meningitis may have poor muscle tone, difficulty feeding, a weak suck and cry, vomiting, irritability, sleepiness, and/or jitteriness. In infants, symptoms of meningitis include a high-pitched cry, irritability, loss of appetite,
vomiting, lethargy, and possibly a fever or convulsions. An older child is likely to have a fever, chills, vomiting, irritability, headache, and/or a stiff neck. Seizures and changes in consciousness, such as stupor or coma, are possible as the infection progresses.


Meningitis is a serious infection that is potentially life threatening and can cause such long-term consequences as hearing or vision problems. It requires immediate medical attention. If treated early and appropriately, there is a low likelihood of complications or lasting harm to your child.


SYMPTOMS OF MENINGITIS


The symptoms of meningitis usually come on quickly, especially in children, and involve some combination of the following:


  • Fever;


  • Headache, often severe;


  • Malaise;


  • Vomiting;


  • Stiff neck and back;


  • Changes in consciousness, from irritability through confusion to drowsiness, stupor, and coma.


    In an infant, symptoms may be somewhat different, including:


  • A high-pitched cry;


  • A bulging or tight fontanel (soft spot);


  • Seizure and/or loss of consciousness.


    If your child displays any of these symptoms, particularly after or while recovering from a respiratory illness or sore throat, call your doctor right away.



  • Conventional Treatment

    Meningitis is diagnosed by looking for signs of infection and the presence of an infectious organism in the spinal fluid. To perform a “spinal tap,” a needle is inserted into a space between two vertebrae and a small amount of fluid is withdrawn for inspection. The process can tee difficult, as it requires the child to curl up and lie still. The doctor will use a numbing medicine on the skin before putting the needle in to lessen the pain, but it still feels like pressure in the back. The doctor will probably also take a sample of your child’s blood to look for other signs of infection.


    If meningitis is suspected, antibiotic therapy will be started immediately after the spinal fluid samples are taken. A doctor will not wait to get the results back to find out whether the meningitis is bacterial or viral, because the risks of not treating a possible bacterial infection immediately are too great. The antibiotic will be given intravenously, usually for a minimum of seven days. Ampicillin, penicillin, and chloramphenicol are commonly used antibiotics for bacterial meningitis.


    If the meningitis is determined to be viral in origin, antibiotics are ineffective and will be discontinued. Rest, fluids, and nutrition, as well as measures to control fever and relieve pain, will be recommended to ease the discomfort and aid in recovery.


    If there is even a suspicion of viral
    meningitis, aspirin should not be given as a painkiller, because the combination
    of aspirin and viral infection has been linked to the development of Reye’s
    syndrome, a dangerous disease affecting the brain and the liver.



    Nutritional Supplements

    The nutritional supplements listed below are aimed at supporting your child’s recovery from
    meningitis. They should not be considered a substitute for appropriate
    antibiotic therapy. For age-appropriate dosages of nutritional supplements, see Dosage Guidelines for Herbs and Nutritional Supplements.


    Floradix is an herbal iron supplement that will give your child v,itamins and minerals necessary to rebuild his strength. Follow the dosage directions on the product label, and give it to your child for two weeks.


    GreenMagma is a product that supplies trace minerals and beta carotene end helps to restore strength. Give your child the dose specified on the label for two weeks.


    Lactobacillus acidophilus and/or bifidus is very good for restoring bowel health after a regime of potent antibiotics. Follow the dosage directions on the product label, and give your child one dose a day for one month.


    The B vitamins help to restore strength. Give your child a vitamin-B complex supplement for two weeks, following the dosage directions on the product label.


    Vitamin C and bioflavonoids help stimulate the immune system. Give your child one dose, four times daily, for two weeks.



    Herbal Treatment

    Herbal treatment for meningitis is aimed at supporting your child’s recovery
    from the illness. It should not be considered a substitute for appropriate
    antibiotic therapy. For age-appropriate dosages of nutritional supplements, see Dosage Guidelines for Herbs and Nutritional Supplements.


    The antibacterial properties of garlic will help resolve infection. Give your child one capsule or one fresh clove, three times a day, until the infection clears.


    American ginseng is an excellent source of trace minerals and micronutrients. It will also support and strengthen your child’s immune system. Give your child one dose, three times a day, for two weeks.


    Note: This herb should be used during recovery only. It should not be given if fever or any other signs of infection are present.


    Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), with its rich concentration of trace minerals and micronutrients, will help strengthen your child’s immune system. Give your child one dose, three times a day, for two weeks.


    Note: This herb should be used during the recovery phase only, not while fever or any other signs of acute infection are present.



    Homeopathy

    Homeopathic treatment for meningitis is aimed at supporting your child’s recovery from the illness once the acute phase of the infection has passed. It should not be considered a substitute for appropriate antibiotic therapy. Choose a symptom-specific remedy and give your child one dose, four times a day, for up to two days.


    Belladonna 30x or 9c is helpful for a child who has a fever, with dilated pupils and perhaps delirious behavior.


    Bryonia 30x or 9c is good for a child who experiences eye pain and constipation. This child will complain that his entire body is in great pain.



    General Recommendations

    During the acute phase of meningitis, a quiet, dimly lit room will help ease the headache pain. Stories, a soothing massage, and holding will help reassure your child and ease his discomfort.


    If your child contracts bacterial meningitis, be aware of the possibility of a subtle injury to the brain. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you are worried about persistent hearing loss, problems with balance or coordination, difficulties with schoolwork, or similar difficulties.



    Prevention

    Most medical doctors now recommend that children be routinely given the Hib vaccine, which offers immunity against Hemophilus influenzae bacteria (the most common cause of bacterial meningitis), starting when they are two months of age. This can be given either by itself or in combination with the DPT vaccine.










    Dosage Guidelines
    Diet
    Herbal Medicine
    Homeopathy
    Bach Flowers
    Acupressure



    From Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Janet Zand, N.D., L.Ac., Robert Rountree, MD, Rachel Walton, RN, ©1994. Published by Avery Publishing, New York. For personal use only; neither the digital nor printed copy may be copied or sold. Reproduced by permission.

    Janet Zand LAc OMD Written by Janet Zand LAc OMD

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