How is meningitis treated?                                                    

Treatment of meningitis varies depending on the type of meningitis, your age, and other factors. General treatment of all forms of meningitis includes:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and other medications for pain and fever

  • Close monitoring and possibly treatment of people who have had close contact with a person with meningitis, even if there are no symptoms

  • Fluid administration by mouth or intravenously

  • Rest

Treatment of acute bacterial meningitis

Acute bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency, because it can rapidly result in permanent, serious complications and death within days. Treatment includes:

  • Hospitalization, generally in an intensive care setting

  • Immediate administration of intravenous antibiotics

  • Intensive monitoring for and treatment of potential complications, such as brain swelling, seizures, and coma. Life support measures may also be necessary.

Treatment of viral meningitis

Some types of viral meningitis are treated with antiviral drugs. Antibiotics are generally not given because they are not effective in treating viral meningitis. However, in some cases, antibiotics may be administered as a precaution if the type of meningitis cannot be determined quickly or if it is suspected that the meningitis is due to a bacterial infection.

What are the possible complications of meningitis?

Meningitis, especially acute bacterial meningitis, can lead to serious and life-threatening complications. In some cases death can occur in a matter of days. You can help minimize your risk of complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of meningitis include:

  • Coma

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a blood-clotting disorder

  • Encephalitis

  • Kidney failure

  • Permanent neurological damage, such as blindness, hearing loss, brain damage, or paralysis

  • Seizures


  1. Meningitis. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2013.
  4. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.
  5. Feigin RD, Cherry JD, Demmler-Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL (Eds), Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 6th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2009.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is a serious disease that is marked by inflammation of the membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which encase and protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is also called spinal meningitis.

... Read more about meningitisintroduction


What are the symptoms of meningitis?

Symptoms of meningitis vary depending on the type of meningitis and individual factors. Some symptoms can resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as the flu.

Symptoms of acute bacterial meningitis are generally the most severe. Milder forms of meningitis, such as chronic meningitis and viral meningitis, resemble the symptoms of acute bacterial meningitis. However, symptoms of ch... Read more about meningitissymptoms


What causes meningitis?

The most common cause of meningitis is a virus, specifically enteroviruses, which are very common viruses that spread by hand-to-mouth contact, coughing, and contact with fecal matter of an infected person (such as changing the diaper of a baby infected with the virus). In most cases, enteroviruses cause a cold-like illness, but in some individuals the virus spreads to the membranes (meninges) ... Read more about meningitiscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 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: Brain and Nerves