ZocdocAnswersCould I have meningitis?

Question

Could I have meningitis?

How can I be sure I don't have meningitis. I've had flu symptoms for 3 days and now my neck and my head hurt and I know that is a meningitis symptom. How can I find out if I have it or not? Do they do a blood test?

Answer

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, also known as meninges. Acute bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency as it can be life threatening and needs immediate treatment. Viral meningitis is milder and also more common. The symptoms of meningitis usually come on very quickly and can include a severe headache, stiff neck, fever and chills, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, and mental status changes such as disorientation and hallucinations. Flu symptoms can definitely overlap with meningitis symptoms so it is very important to seek care urgently if your headache or neck pain is severe, you have a high fever, or are suffering from any mental status changes. If your symptoms are not severe it is appropriate to be seen by your primary care doctor as soon as possible to be evaluated. If your symptoms are severe and your physical exam suggest meningitis you will have a full workup in the emergency room or hospital. This will include blood work, blood cultures, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) and possibly imaging to confirm your diagnosis. Although the likelihood of you having acute bacterial meningitis is very low (as you would likely be extremely ill after 3 days) it is still very important that you seek care to prevent permanent damage or even death.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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