Treatment Options for meningitis

By  , Expert Content
May 23, 2012

Meningitis is considered to be a medical emergency and is treated in a hospital.  The person is usually admitted in the intensive care unit for management. Treatment depends on the type of meningitis (cause of infection i.e. bacteria or virus) and presence of other complications (such as brain edema, seizures).

Treatment of meningitis includes:

  • antibiotics or antiviral drugs and
  • treatment of complications such as shock, convulsions, dehydration, brain swelling.

Antibiotics: People with acute bacterial meningitis are given intravenous antibiotics. The antibiotic or combination of antibiotics is selected based on the probable type of bacteria causing the infection. In most cases, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is started until the exact bacteria can be determined by tests. Antibiotics are usually given for 10-14 days or longer if response to treatment is not adequate. In bacterial meningitis cortisone-like medications are give to ensure faster recovery and reduce the risk of complications.

Other medications that may be given at the same time include:

  • oxygen: to support the supply of oxygen to all the tissues and organs
  • intravenous fluids (through a vein)—to correct dehydration and support fluid and electrolyte requirement of the body till you can take orally. If you are in shock, fluid may be given along with other medications to improve blood pressure and tissue perfusion (supply of blood and nutrients)
  • steroids or other medication— may be given if you develop (swelling) around your brain and
  • anti-epileptic medication— these may be given if you have seizures.

Antiviral drugs: If viral meningitis is suspected, anti-viral medicines may also be given along with antibiotics. Once a diagnosis of viral meningitis is confirmed, the antibiotics are stopped, however, other supportive care such as oxygen, intravenous fluids and treatment of brain swelling are continued to support the body as it recovers. Most people with mild viral meningitis may not require hospital treatment. They may be treated at home with:

  • plenty of rest and fluids
  • painkillers for the headache and
  • medicine to relieve fever and vomiting.

Other types of meningitis

Fungal meningitis requires long term anti-fungal drugs. As these drugs are associated with harmful side-effects, anti-fungal drugs are usually started only after laboratory confirms that the cause of meningitis is fungal infection.

Infection control

Meningitis is infectious (i.e. it can spread from one person to another). Therefore, cases of meningitis are isolated. Contacts of the infected person may be given a dose of antibiotics as a precautionary measure if someone is thought to be particularly at risk of infection.



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