Meningitis and septicaemia

Find out more about meningitis and septicaemia, symptoms in babies and how they are treated.

What is it?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

Septicaemia is a blood infection, sometimes known as blood poisoning. 

Although meningitis and septicaemia are separate diseases, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis often causes septicaemia at the same time. Babies under five years and teenagers aged 15 to 17 years are most at risk of meningococcal meningitis, which is a bacterial form of meningitis.


Symptoms in babies can include: excessive crying - often different to their usual cry; fast or unusual patterns of breathing; fever with cold hands and feet; not taking feeds or repeated vomiting; being irritable, especially when being handled; and drowsiness. A lumbar puncture may be performed to confirm which condition your baby has.


A range of antibiotics are used to treat meningitis and septicaemia including benzylpenicillin, cefotaxime, ampicillin and gentamicin.

The information on this page is more than two years old