Meningitis Scare

On Thursday before Christmas I was woken in the early hours by a crying Abbie.  Her Dad handed her over to me for big cuddles and kisses and then I noticed that she was so hot my skin was starting to burn.  Off we went on a Calpol hunt.  Her temperature was 39.9.  As soon as I brought her into the light, which really wasn’t that bright, her reaction was alarming.  She screamed as if the light were penetrating her skin.  I had to turn it off and administer the Calpol in the dark.

I’ve known, even since before becoming a mummy, that Disney films can cure all ills so I took her downstairs and popped her infront of the TV, not quite sure how this was going to go given that the TV emits light.  Then I noticed a purple rash on her hand.  I was calmer than I thought I would be, but I’ve seen a sceptacaemia rash and this was the right colour.  I picked up a glass and pressed it to the rash – it didn’t disappear.

High temperature, aversion to light and a rash that won’t disappear under a glass are of course well known symptoms of meningitis.  I was now starting to think we might need to get to the hospital quick smart.  However I just wanted to be sure.  I used a little torch to examine the rash in more detail.

It was felt tip pen.

I revised my diagnosis, whacked on the Princess and the Frog and made myself a coffee, somewhat pleased that my day wouldn’t be spent in A&E with a child at death’s door.  Those days are rubbish!

However for 8 people today that rash will be the genuine article and Meningitis will take 1 in 10 lives this year.  Those who do survive can be left with scarring, emotional disorders or disabilities that can be temporary or permanent.  Whilst statistically it’s not the most prevalent disease in the UK, is does mostly affect children and young people which makes it one of the harshest.

It’s not all bad news.  In the UK the incidents of Meningitis have halved in the past 25 years.  We’re going in the right direction with this one.


Speed is of the essence if your little one is to stand a chance of surviving Meningitis so I’ve trawled the Meningitis Research Foundation for some info.

The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Below is a handy chart which shows the other symptoms associated with the infection.  You can download this image for yourself from the Meningitis Research Foundation Website.  It prints out as a handy wallet sized card


For more symptoms check out the Meningitis Research Foundation symptom checker by clicking here.


If you press a tumbler on an average rash it disappears under the glass, or at least lessens in colour.  A meningitis rash doesn’t.  Know this test.  Scribble on your child with felt tip pen and practise it.

Positive tumbler test image, courtesy of The Meningitis Research Foundation


The early symptoms of Meningitis are not unlike many viruses that kids pick up.  My youngest will rock up a temperature of 40 degrees celsius just by growing a tooth so every time she’s ill we’re cracking out the fans.  It can be hard to know if your child just has a severe virus or if it’s meningitis because you’re not an expert.

However, just down the road there is a big building full of experts and they won’t shout at you for taking your ill child there to make sure that they don’t have Meningitis.  Infact they would rather you did.  There are tests that an A&E doctor can carry out to confirm Meningitis with 100% certainty but they can’t do it if you don’t take the child to them.

Meningitis is a brutal disease.  You wake up in the morning feeling fine and by the evening you’re in a coma fighting for your life.  If you do wake up you may face a life of disability.  However if a doctor can get the right drugs into you fast enough you stand a good chance of waking up and walking out of the hospital.

It’s better to feel guilty about wasting the doctors time than not getting to A&E fast enough and having to explain that to your child….if they survived.


Knowledge is power.  Know the symptoms.  Also know the colours of the felt tip pens that you have in the house.  Check the colour of the sceptecaemia rash and then throw away the felt tip pens that resemble it – you’ll save yourself a scare down the line!

If you would like to help the Meningitis Research Foundation with fundraising or other little acts of love then have a look at this link.


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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure.  She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right.  Infact 85% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS  are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.






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