How is bacterial meningitis treated?

The best treatment for acute meningitis is avoiding it in the first place. Effective vaccines have been developed against the three most common causes of bacterial meningitis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumonia.

Treatment for bacterial meningitis

Treatment of bacterial meningitis requires timely treatment with antibiotics. It is important to follow your treatment plan for bacterial meningitis precisely and to take all of the antibiotics as instructed to help avoid complications. Treatment of bacterial meningitis includes:

  • Antibiotic therapy, including powerful antibiotics such as ceftriaxone (Rocephin) and vancomycin (Vancocin)
  • Anticonvulsant medications such as dilantin (Phenytoin) or phenobarbital to prevent seizures in severe meningitis
  • Antinausea medication if needed
  • Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Aspirin use should be avoided in children.
  • Intravenous fluids as needed
  • Oxygen if shortness of breath is present
  • Pain medications to increase comfort if needed
  • Sedatives to increase comfort if needed
  • Surgical drainage of sinuses if needed

What you can do to improve your bacterial meningitis

In addition to following your treatment plan, you may be able to reduce some of the symptoms of bacterial meningitis with comfort measures including:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Staying in a quiet, dark room

What are the potential complications of bacterial meningitis?

Adults with weakened immune systems and infants are at the highest risk of developing complications. Left untreated, bacterial meningitis can be a serious, even life-threatening infection in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of bacterial meningitis include:

  • Brain damage
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of vision or blindness
  • Seizures
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
  • Stroke
  • Unconsciousness and coma


  1. Meningitis and encephalitis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  2. Meningococcal Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is an infection, caused by bacteria, of the sac surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Typical symptoms include headache, sensitivity to light, and neck stiffness. Fever is often present.

... Read more about bacterial meningitisintroduction


What are the symptoms of bacterial meningitis?

Inflammation accounts for some of the key symptoms of bacterial meningitis, such as headache, sensitivity to light, and neck stiffness.

Common symptoms of bacterial meningitis

Common symptoms of bacterial meningitis include:


What causes bacterial meningitis?

The most common causes of bacterial meningitis include Haemophilus influenzae type b (also known as Hib), Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae, although Haemophilus influenzae type b is not as common as it once was due to vaccination practices. Other bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis include Escherichia coli, group B streptococci, Listeria monocytogenes... Read more about bacterial meningitiscauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

Popular Infections and Contagious Diseases Slide Shows