Meningitis: Expert warns against self-medication

Dr Arikawe Adeolu, a Medical Practitioner, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, Abuja, has warned against the self-treatment of headache and fever during the hot season, saying it could be symptoms of meningitis.

Adeolu, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja, advised people to always seek professional advice or medical check-up instead of self-medication.

He warned that self-treatment of headache and fever, especially during the hot season, could be fatal as meningitis also presents similar symptoms.

According to him, prompt medical care is very important in any situation where one is having symptoms that usually starts with fever, headache and neck stiffness.

“Some persons loose sense of themselves and they begin to talk irrationally; this is not the time to be taking paracetamol or any anti-malarial drug.”

“They should be taken to the hospital because the earlier treatment commences the better the chances of individual survival.”

“So any symptom that seems to extend beyond the common fever should be presented at the hospital,” Adeolu advised.

He said that during the hot season in Nigeria, people who lived in the Northern part of the country usually faced an increased incidence of meningitis.

The medical expert, therefore, urged the people to take vaccination against meningitis, pointing out that it was the best preventive measure.

He said that immunisation would ensure protection against the condition.

The doctor advised those hoping to receive immunisation against meningitis to ensure they were immunised against all strains of the bacteria, which causes the condition.

He also advised the public to avoid crowded places as the disease was airborne and those already infected with the disease could transmit to others even without visible symptoms.

Overview of Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
The swelling from meningitis typically triggers symptoms such as headache, fever and a stiff neck.

Cases of meningitis are caused by a viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Some cases of meningitis improve without treatment in a few weeks. Others can be life-threatening and require emergent antibiotic treatment.

Seek immediate medical care if you suspect that someone has meningitis. Early treatment of bacterial meningitis can prevent serious complications.

Early meningitis symptoms may mimic the flu (influenza). Symptoms may develop over several hours or over a few days. Possible signs and symptoms in anyone older than the age of 2 include:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache that seems different than normal
  • Headache with nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking
  • Sensitivity to light
  • No appetite or thirst
  • Skin rash (sometimes, such as in meningococcal meningitis

Newborns and infants may show these signs:

  • High fever
  • Constant crying
  • Excessive sleepiness or irritability
  • Inactivity or sluggishness
  • Poor feeding
  • A bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby’s head (fontanel)
  • Stiffness in a baby’s body and neck

In 2015 meningitis occurred in about 8.7 million people worldwide. This resulted in 379,000 deaths – down from 464,000 deaths in 1990. With appropriate treatment the risk of death in bacterial meningitis is less than 15%. Outbreaks of bacterial meningitis occur between December and June each year in an area of sub-Saharan Africa known as the meningitis belt.

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