"One of my biggest fears is that I won’t be able to identify the signs of meningitis until it’s too late."

Kate, mother of two

Meningitis can turn your world upside down. It can strike quickly and leave people with life-changing disabilities.

With this disease, even a matter of minutes can make a difference. Scroll down to understand how you can Tackle Meningitis and take steps to protect your family.

What is Meningitis

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"If your kid is on full life support…you feel so helpless"

Bacterial meningitis kills more UK children under 5 than any other infectious disease.1

Meningitis is the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by bacteria or a virus. It can progress fast and requires immediate treatment.

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"I didn’t know there are so many different types of meningitis"

Meningitis bacteria types in the UK

There are multiple types of bacteria that can cause meningitis. Group B bacteria cause the majority of UK meningitis cases.2

Vaccines are available to help protect against many of these strains.

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"I thought it was a bug he’d picked up"

1 in 10 people carry these bacteria and viruses in their nose or throat.3 Infection can be spread by:




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"All of a sudden, you don't know if you're going to see them again"

Up to 1 in 10 cases of bacterial meningitis are fatal.4

Meningitis bacteria types

Meningitis can cause blood poisoning and result in lifelong damage. 1 in 3 bacterial meningitis survivors may be left with disabilities like limb amputations and blindness.1

You should get medical advice as soon as possible if you’re concerned about yourself or someone else. Trust your instincts and don’t wait until a rash develops.

Who is at risk

Can you identify
the early symptoms?

Select all that apply from the list of meningitis symptoms


Dislike of
bright lights



Stiff neck


Rapid breathing


Cold hands
and feet

Small red
blotchy rash

Muscle pain

In the early stages, it can be very difficult to tell the signs of meningitis apart from milder diseases and conditions. The symptoms above can appear in any order and some may not appear at all. While the early symptoms are similar for all age groups, there are some additional symptoms to look out for in babies.

Unusual Crying

Refusing Feeding

Drowsy, floppy

fontanelle (soft spot)

The rash test

A red pin-prick rash that develops into bruising is a sign of serious infection. It is caused by bacteria infecting the bloodstream in advanced stages of the disease. However, a rash may not appear in all cases so do not wait for a rash.

To identify this rash, press a clear glass firmly against the skin. A fever combined with spots that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency.

Protect your family

Now you are aware of the symptoms you can reduce the risk of infection in the following ways.

Girl washing hands
Washing hands

Washing hands carefully and regularly especially before eating, after using the toilet, following time in crowded public places or after contact with animals

Avoid sharing drinks

Avoid sharing drinks, food, straws, eating utensils, lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else

Avoid sharing food, drinks
Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing
Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing

Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing

Avoid sharing drinks

You can reduce the risk of getting meningitis by ensuring all your vaccinations are up to date


Vaccines help to prevent meningitis, however, there is no single vaccine to protect against all bacterial strains. Children will be vaccinated on the NHS, however, many groups are not eligible on the national schedule. Find out if your family is covered below.

My child was born:

Children born before May 2015

Meningococcal group B bacteria are now the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. Meningitis B vaccination was introduced into the UK routine immunisation schedule in Sept 2015. It is offered to babies at 2 months and 4 months with a booster at 12 months. If your child was born before this date s/he will not be offered it as part of the routine immunisation schedule.

For people not eligible for an NHS vaccination, advice and vaccination is available privately from many pharmacies, private clinics and hospitals.

Children born after May 2015

The UK vaccination schedule includes vaccines that help protect against meningitis-causing diseases. If your child was born after September 2015 they will receive the following vaccinations that help to protect against meningitis:

  • Pneumococcal
  • HiB/Meningitis C
  • Meningitis B
  • MMR
  • Meningitis ACWY
  • 5 or 6 in 1 combination vaccine

Teenagers and adults

Teenagers and adults aren’t covered by Meningitis B vaccination.

Meningitis ACWY was introduced as a routine vaccine in Aug 2015. From September 2015, the ACWY vaccine is offered to teenagers in school when they are around 14 yrs old.

For people not eligible for an NHS vaccination, advice and vaccination is available privately from many pharmacies, private clinics and hospitals.

National providers of private meningitis vaccinations

Help to Tackle Meningitis in your community with Matt Dawson

Rugby superstar Matt Dawson has first-hand experience of meningitis after his two-year old son, Sami, contracted meningitis in February last year and remained critically ill for two weeks afterwards. The statements and image used at the top of this page were from his experience.

Now you are armed with important information about meningitis, you can work with Matt to share your knowledge with other parents, schools and communities to Tackle Meningitis.

"I feel passionate about standing behind a campaign which uses the power and influence of sport and its ability to reach people of all ages. Together we can Tackle Meningitis to give families the best fighting chance against this devastating disease."

Support Matt Dawson to Tackle Meningitis