Page header image

Bacterial Meningitis

Admission and Discharge Instructions

What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord). Children with meningitis often have sudden symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness. Children may also have nausea, vomiting, and a worse headache when in a lighted area. They may become confused or difficult to awaken. Meningitis can resemble a bad case of the flu.

What is the cause?

In bacterial meningitis the bacteria can spread directly from a nearby sinus infection, or the bacteria can spread through the bloodstream from an infection in another part of the body.

What is a spinal tap?

It is very important to determine whether a virus or bacteria are causing the meningitis. While children with viral meningitis usually get better without special treatment, bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening. It is for this reason that your child may need to have a test called a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

A lumbar puncture is a procedure in which a hollow needle is inserted in the spinal canal in the lower back to withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid. This procedure is very safe. By examining the fluid, the doctor can often determine if the meningitis is more likely to be viral or bacterial.

Why was my child admitted to the hospital?

Main complication: ________________________________________.

__ Needs IV fluids.

__ Needs IV antibiotic or other medication.

__ Other reasons: _________________________________________.

How long will it last?

Bacterial meningitis is a serious, life-threatening illness. Children with bacterial meningitis may recover without any problems if the infection was detected promptly and treated with antibiotics. Even with appropriate treatment, some types of meningitis can cause brain damage ranging from deafness to paralysis to death.

What are the requirements for discharge?

  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________

How can I take care of my child?


Your child will receive antibiotics intravenously (IV, or through a vein) and other supportive care in the hospital. The IV antibiotics are usually given for 2 weeks. Sometimes IV antibiotics may be given at home. Your doctor will discuss this with you.

Other Medicines

  • For pain or fever over 102F (39C) give _______________________
  • ______________________________________________________
  • ______________________________________________________

Additional Instructions

  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________________

When should my child be seen again?

___ Your child needs to be rechecked and has an appointment on _____________ at _______ with _________________________.

___ Your child needs to be rechecked in ________ days. Call your child's doctor to make an appointment.

___ A follow-up appointment is not necessary. Call the doctor if you have any concerns.

How can I help prevent the spread of meningitis?

The bacteria causing the meningitis can be passed from person to person. The length of time your child will be contagious can be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, depending on the bacteria. Your doctor will let you know when your child is no longer contagious and can return to normal activities. Until then, you should follow these precautionary measures:

  • Wash your child's hands frequently.
  • Wash your hands frequently and make sure anyone who has contact with your child does the same.
  • Do not let family members share cups or utensils.
  • Avoid contact with saliva, such as by kissing a child.

When should I call my child's health care provider?


  • Your child starts to act very sick, confused, or is difficult to awaken.
  • You or someone who has had contact with your child develops a headache or neck stiffness.
  • Your child develops a new fever.

Call within 24 hours if:

  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by the Section of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2003-08-05
Last reviewed: 2006-10-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
Page footer image