The meninges in the human skeletal system are the three thin membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord; sometimes these meninges become inflamed and this result in a condition called meningitis. Meningitis is thus inflammation arising in the meninges due to an infection of the membranes. A virus or bacteria can be responsible for the cause of the infection in the meninges. Meningitis in children in the majority of cases is caused by the bacterium known as Hemophilus influenzae, or simply "H. flu”. Infection in the meninges can also arise because of an infection in the blood- simply called bacteremia, in the ears, in the jaw or in the sinuses.
Some typical symptoms that can occur in a newborn affected by meningitis are difficulty feeding, a very weak sucking reflex and poor muscle tone in the body. The new born may also be given to repeatedly crying out, he or she may be prone to vomiting, and the child can also suffer from irritability and sleepiness, and will be affected by jittery and unsure movements of the body. Some other symptoms of meningitis in children can include the presence of a high-pitched cry whenever the infant cries, loss of appetite along with regular bouts of vomiting, irritability and lethargy, and sometimes afflictions of fever or convulsions in the body. Children who are older tend to be affected by fever, chills in the body, are prone to vomiting and irritability, they may also suffer from a headache, and be affected by a stiffening of the neck muscles. As the infection proceeds in the body other symptoms such as seizures and changes in consciousness reflected in conditions such as stupor or coma can also come about.
As far as viral meningitis is concerned, the members of the enterovirus family, particularly the coxsackie viruses and the echovirus are largely responsible for the majority of cases. An upper respiratory tract infection usually signals the beginning of a virally caused attack of meningitis in most people. A rash may or may not be present in most cases of virally caused meningitis. Other conditions present in the child such as measles, the mumps, rubella, and other virally caused disease such as EBV, influenza, chicken pox, herpes, or other viral diseases can give rise to complications leading to viral meningitis in an infant or a person.
Culturing of viruses is a difficult undertaking in any research project. Therefore viral meningitis is usually detected through indirect means to get a correct diagnosis of a virally caused meningitis. And appearances under the microscope is not always a good guide to a viral infection, for example the examination of the CSF shows no microorganisms whatsoever in the fluid, though plenty of WBCs are present, largely the lymphocytes and monocytes that appear to ward off pathogens. It is the appearance of these disease fighting blood cells and other clues such as the amount of protein-usually normal or slightly elevated and the amount of glucose-normal levels or slightly decreased in the CSF that tells us the infection is occurring.
The treatment of viral meningitis aims at symptomatic treatment and in controlling the headaches and soothing the discomforts that arise because of fever, sensations of nausea, and vomiting; this is because of the fact that no specific treatment methodology exists against virally caused meningitis. Treatment methodologies can sometimes turn to the intravenous injections of antibiotics for a 48 hour period while a CSF culture is grown where infants and young children are concerned; this is done because meningitis can be difficult to diagnose in such patients. The antibiotic treatment is halted and the infection is assumed to be viral in nature once the culture turns up no microorganisms.
While there are a variety of factors that determine a person's susceptibility to infection by the bacterial form of meningitis, its occurrence is much more likely than the viral form of meningitis and in addition it's potential to lead to complications and to progress to an eventual life-threatening stage is also greater. More commonly it is known by names like epidemic meningitis and spotted fever.
Susceptibility to the bacterial form of meningitis depends to certain factors and many of the epidemiologic evidences and the statistical studies based on many large populations and which indicate epidemiologic patterns and trends suggests that children two years old and below are more likely to be infected than older children or adults in the population, similarly boys are at greater risk of contracting the disease than are girls, and white children are the least susceptible to this form of meningitis when compared to nonwhite children. People with a compromised immune system are at increased risk, similar to all other infectious diseases.
The age of the infected individual can play a role in the type of organisms responsible for bacterial meningitis; thus certain strains may tend to infect individuals of a specific age class. For example, newborn infants infected with bacterial meningitis are likely to get the bacteria from those that inhabit the birth canal of the mother; these bacteria include group B Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes, all of which can infect a newborn infant. Bacteria like the Haemophilus influenzae type B, the Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae are more likely to infect older children, certain toddlers of a specific age group and school going children. Newborn infants can also be affected by these bacteria and can cause serious diseases in the young body.
Bacterial meningitis is similar in the type of symptoms it induces in the affected individual to the viral form of meningitis. Typically it can begin in two ways, it may have a sudden and inexplicable onset producing symptoms with rapidity in the affected individual or it may take a few days during which fever and respiratory symptoms gradually intensify and thus precede the symptoms of full blown meningitis. Symptoms such as seizures, trouble with vision and visual disorders, paralysis and even coma can all occur during the initial onset of the disease.
Conditions such as pneumonia, septic arthritis, or cellulitis- a condition characterized by an inflammation of the connective tissue between adjacent tissues and organs can give rise to meningitis when Haemophilus influenzae type B is involved or the meningitis caused by this bacterium accompanies these other disorders in the body of the individual.
Bacterial meningitis caused by meningococcemia -Neisseria meningitidis and sometimes those due to Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae cause the development of a rash known as purpura, characterized by red-to-purple colored patches-known as petechiae-coming in many sizes and brought about by bleeding on the skin of the affected individual.
The examination of the CSF by a competent doctor can diagnose bacterial meningitis in a patient. A variety of WBCs, are present in the CSF of patients with bacterial meningitis-specifically the polymorphonuclear cells that fight disease. These normally appear when the viewing the CSF carefully under a high resolution microscope. The other signs are the elevated levels of the many proteins in the CSF-the elevated level suggests the presence of bacteria in the CSF. In addition the level of glucose content in the CSF is lowered-the low glucose levels results because of bacterial utilization of it as food in their multiplication process within the CSF.
Bacterial infections are characterized by a raised WBC count, dominated by polymorphonuclear cells-this can be verified by examination of the CSF of the affected individual. Blood can also support bacteria similar to the ones that use the CSF as a medium for multiplication. Bacterial meningitis in an individual is treated using an intravenous antibiotic or antibiotics continually administered for 10 to 14 days at a stretch.
Bacterial meningitis need not be fatal, though some deaths do occur, the majority of affected people make a complete recovery from all forms of meningitis; however all sorts of other complications can come about as a result of brain damage brought about by the inflammation arising as a result of the infection during the course of the disease. Conditions such as complete or partial deafness in the ears, visual disturbances and blindness, seizures and paralysis, psychological trauma and mental retardation, and learning and speech disability are common and can and do occur as a result of complications. The surgical placement of an artificial channel in the brain may be necessitated if there is an obstruction in the normal drainage pathways from the spaces containing the CSF in the affected individual.
Supplements and herbs
The following herbal remedies are to be used in the recovery process during convalescence from meningitis. The herbal remedies are not therapeutic in nature and cannot be used as a therapeutic medication; they are only intended for strengthening the child's body once recovery has been achieved from meningitis.
The infection in the later stages can be alleviated and removed through the use of garlic which has strong bactericidal properties. Till the time the infection clears away, children can be given a single capsule of garlic or one fresh clove, thrice daily. Essential micronutrients are abundant in American ginseng which is also an excellent source of trace minerals essential to the body. The child's immune system can also be strengthened and bolstered through its utilization in the treatment. Dosage of this herbal remedy for children can be a single dose of the remedy, given thrice daily for a total treatment period of two weeks to achieve full recovery.
The child's immune system can also be bolstered through the use of the astragalus - Astragalus membranaceous herb, this herb is rich in micronutrients and important trace minerals of all types. Dosages for children of the herb can be a single dose, given thrice daily for a total treatment period of two weeks only.