Sponsored by Pfizer
When my boys were little, and they started running a fever, one thing always popped to the front of my mind when they got to that unresponsive state that young children can go into while they’re ill. With a glass, I’d stand there pressing it lightly on anything that resembled a spot, yet not really knowing what I was looking for. All I knew was that meningitis was a very dangerous thing indeed for children, and something I needed to keep an eye out for. In this post, I’m partnering with Pfizer to spread the word about meningococcal disease.
As a young adult, I didn’t ‘get it,’ that signs of meningitis are actually far more than a purple rash that doesn’t go away when lightly pressed to glass. I think it was when I read about Victoria Beckham being diagnosed with viral meningitis in 2000, that I really took note and started to research more. I’d been convinced that meningitis only really affected young children, with very rare instances of adults affected. At that point, I learned about the difference between bacterial and viral meningitis, and how bacterial meningitis is the more serious of the two.
- Viral Meningitis
Symptoms such as headache, feeling sick, being tired and sensitive to light. Symptoms usually clear up within a few days. I suspect most people with this form would think they had a very bad cold or a flu, and are unlikely to know they’ve had viral meningitis.
- Bacterial Meningitis (e.g meningococcal disease)
Meningococcal disease is an illness caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitis. Even with treatment, death can occur as quickly as 24 hours after symptoms first show, or the disease can cause long-term disabilities.
The bacteria can be spread by kissing!!!!
Busy public areas, such as schools, theatres, cinemas, music festivals as well as being close to family and friends, can spread the disease, by actions as simple as sharing a cup or coughing.
Apparently, in the UK, up to around 1 in 5 adolescents carry the bacteria that can lead to meningitis. They can carry the disease without showing symptoms themselves, but if the infection spreads to the brain through the bloodstream, the symptoms can become apparent. That’s an incredible statistic when you think that at school, there might be up to around 30 kids in a class, and potentially, around 6 of those carry the bacteria. Around 1 in 5 of my friends have blonde hair, which is incredible given that we’re all over forty…..but you know what I mean.
My boys are all at this age now. Teenagers embarking on the first part of their lives without their parents around at all times, keeping an eye on everything and everyone they come across. I watch them with their friends, laughing and capering, watching movies – 20 to a bedroom, while passing round the family packs of crisps and sharing bars of chocolate and bottles of juice. What is that with teenagers these days, where they swig from the cola bottle and pass it along to their friends!!! I’ve seen my boys sitting at the table with friends, where they’re all eating burgers, or pasta, or whatever I’ve put on to feed the hordes of growing boys, and there’s always one or two who polish off the leftovers from their friends’ plates.
I look at that behaviour differently now, knowing that kissing, socialising in groups and sharing eating and drinking utensils can spread the disease. I also know that telling a bunch of teenagers that they’re potentially putting themselves at risk, is as likely to change their behaviour as my chances of winning a lottery that’s rolled over for a year…
What Can We Do?
#24youhavethepower is a social media programme designed to educate us. If you would like to find out more information about meningitis and vaccination, please visit www.24youhavethepower.co.uk
As parents, adults and adolescents, we do have the power, to learn more, to know what to look for, and how to take the best precautions we can.
I believe vaccination is one of the biggest advances in medicine for our species. It’s incredible that we can protect ourselves and our kids from some devastating diseases by little injections. The research involved is life changing for us, and has even eradicated diseases in the UK, like smallpox and polio. There are Meningitis vaccinations available for babies, teenagers and students too. My boys did receive the MenACWY vaccine at school in S3, although it took a little persuasion for my middle boy to go through with it.
For me, it was worth persuading my boys to receive protection from a devastating disease, however it’s up to you, as readers to source the information, read the facts, and make your own mind up for your families. As parents, all we can do, is make an informed judgment call. Use this post as a means to research for yourself, talk to your GP, and make your own conclusions.
Know the Symptoms
Don’t wait until someone you know has the condition to find out more.
- Early symptoms can be mistaken for colds or flu, such as fevers, aches and pains, feeling nauseous and vomiting, headaches and confusion.
- More rare symptoms show up as a rash, stiff neck, aversion to bright light, and being confused. Not everyone will have these symptoms.
If you suspect someone has meningitis, get immediate medical help, as it is vital for survival.