What are the main meningitis symptoms?

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is the infection and inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. A suspected case should be treated as a medical emergency as unnecessary delays in diagnosis could result in life-changing consequences.

What types of meningitis are there?

There are actually only two types of meningitis…

Bacterial meningitis: The most common form of meningitis is caused by meningococcal bacteria, which can lead to a person contracting meningitis, septicemia (also known as sepsis) or both.

Viral meningitis: Although this strain is less life-threatening, the symptoms are very similar to those of bacterial meningitis and it’s important to seek urgent medical help as it can cause life-changing after effects.

What are the main meningitis symptoms?

The symptoms of meningitis vary and depend on the age of the patient.

For babies and young children under five, the main meningitis symptoms are:

  • Agitation and refusing to be picked up
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Drowsiness, floppiness or unresponsive
  • High fever
  • Pale, blotchy skin
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Red rash – that does not fade under pressure
  • Refusing to feed
  • Stiff neck and sensitive to light
  • Tense, bulging soft spot on top of their head, known as the ‘fontanelle’
  • Unusual high-pitched cry or moaning
  • Vomiting

For older children, teenagers and adults, additional meningitis symptoms are:

  • Confused and irritable
  • Difficult to wake up
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck

Who is most at risk?

Babies and children under five are much more likely to contract bacterial meningitis so extra care should be taken when their symptoms are assessed.

If a doctor or medical professional does not do this, the misdiagnosis of meningitis can easily occur – especially if the deadly bacterial type is dismissed as a virus.

Because there are often no signs of meningitis in cases of septicaemia (sepsis), this can be a more life-threatening form of the disease.

Thankfully, vaccinations are now offered to babies, teenagers and students to offer greater protection against certain types of meningitis.

How do I know I’ve been misdiagnosed?

Although someone might display one or all of the symptoms, it is sometimes possible to have meningitis and not show any visible signs at all.

Unfortunately, many doctors and staff working in the healthcare system and NHS are stressed and overworked. Sadly, this can lead to errors being made.

In cases involving babies and young children, their symptoms can often be missed because they develop at the same time as another sickness or condition such as swine flu, pneumonia, jaundice or flu.

Common examples of meningitis misdiagnosis include:

  • Failure to conduct lumbar puncture or CSF examination
  • Delay or failure to administer intravenous antibiotics
  • Cerebral spinal fluid not tested for signs of infection
  • Doctor misses or misinterprets meningitis symptoms
  • A lack of investigations into symptoms of ill health
  • Delay in referring you to a specialist
  • X-rays and scans are misinterpreted
  • Doctor misinterprets test results
  • Blood and urine cultures not analysed
  • Failure to conduct chest X-ray or CT scan of head

What is the impact of a delayed or incorrect diagnosis?

Meningitis is a disease which must be treated promptly and correctly or its effects can quickly lead to severe and potentially life-changing injuries.

Only the early diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis with antibiotics can prevent permanent neurological damage.

Unfortunately, a delayed or incorrect meningitis diagnosis can often leave the victim needing to make major lifestyle adaptations to cope with the long-term implications.

The after effects of meningitis include:

  • Loss of limbs – amputation often prevents spread of disease
  • Cognitive problems – memory and concentration issues
  • Movement and balance problems
  • Serious brain injury
  • Loss of eyesight
  • Hearing loss
  • Epilepsy

Sadly, 10 per cent of all bacterial meningitis cases also result is a fatality.

What should I do?

In most cases, the signs of blood infections like meningitis are noticed quickly and suitable treatment is provided.

Unfortunately, the misdiagnosis of meningitis often happens because routine checks are not conducted by the medical professionals entrusted with a patient’s care.

If they fail to properly diagnose meningitis or deliver an unsatisfactory level of care which results in an injury which significantly impacts on a person’s life or leads to a fatality, a medical professional could be guilty of medical negligence.

If you’ve been affected in this way, UK law allows appropriate legal action to be taken. We would recommend talking to a meningitis claims specialist as soon as possible to determine the strength of your case and chances of success.

How will a meningitis claim help other people?

Meningitis misdiagnosis rarely has anything but a devastating and long-lasting impact on the victim and their loved ones. Sadly, it can sometimes prove fatal.

Taking legal action is not just about claiming compensation. It’s often the only way to properly investigate what went wrong and find out why – ensuring lessons are leaned and more robust procedures are implemented to prevent it from happening to anyone else in future.

The desire to obtain answers is often the main reason why people pursue a meningitis negligence claim, especially if a death has occurred which could have been prevented.

By finding out how it happened, who is responsible and why; you could help to educate those who made the mistake to ensure it is never repeated.

What must I prove to bring a successful meningitis claim?

For your meningitis misdiagnosis case to be successful, three things must be proven:

  1. The care a patient received fell below the standards which could ‘reasonably be expected’ from a specialist in the field.


  1. That the NHS Trust or medical professional breached the ‘duty of care’ they owed their patient.


  1. That this lack of care led directly to the injury or harm suffered, which was a ‘reasonably foreseeable consequence’ of the necessary or appropriate actions not being taken by the person providing treatment.


What can I claim as a victim of meningitis misdiagnosis?

Every meningitis misdiagnosis case is different and the settlement you’re entitled to often depends on the circumstances and severity of its impact on your life.

Typically, claims can be made for one or more of the following:

  • General damages – injuries, pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses – private treatment, therapy, counselling etc
  • Cost of future professional care – cases of long term/permanent disability
  • Travel expenses incurred
  • Loss of past or future earnings
  • Bereavement payments
  • Child dependency payments
  • Family dependency payments
  • Funeral costs


How much compensation will I receive?

The amount of compensation you may be entitled varies from case to case. It depends on how severe the meningitis was and your individual circumstances.

It also reflects the seriousness of the misdiagnosis, or late diagnosis, and its impact your health and overall quality of life.

For a more detailed assessment of what you may be able to claim, please get in touch to arrange a free legal consultation.

Why should I use Hudgell Solicitors?

The implications of a meningitis misdiagnosis can be devastating for the victims and loves ones whose lives are affected. Sadly, it often results in serious or life-changing injuries.

Our dedicated team understand how to deal with these highly-sensitive cases and our approach is focused on you and your family.

As part of our company values, we promise to see the person and not just the claim – and we strive to obtain any ongoing support or rehabilitation which may be needed.

Get in touch and we’ll schedule our first meeting within 24 hours and assign a dedicated meningitis specialist to your case who has extensive experience in the investigation of brain and spinal infections.

We’ll conduct a free and confidential consultation where we can listen to your circumstances and ask questions about the care received.

If we believe you have grounds to successfully claim compensation, we’ll work with you to get the result you deserve.

What is the meningitis claims process?

If we take on your case, a dedicated specialist will be on hand to provide expert legal advice and guidance when you or your loved ones most need it.

We understand that you may still be struggling to come to terms with the impact of your meningitis and will try to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.

If you would benefit from counselling or rehabilitation, we may be able to arrange a consultation with a specialist who can bring improvements to your daily life.

At the same time, we’ll work hand in hand with independent medical professionals to understand the severity and impact the meningitis misdiagnosis or late diagnosis has had on your health.

For complete clarity, we’ll contact everyone involved in your treatment to collate all the necessary evidence needed to represent you and negotiate a settlement.

We also promise to help you through the process every step of the way, writing to you every four weeks with any updates or information.

Get our experts fighting on your side – call us for free help and legal advice.

Is there a time limit for making a meningitis misdiagnosis claim?

In most cases, you have three years from the day moment the meningitis misdiagnosis becomes apparent or the time you first become aware of the misdiagnosis to begin legal action – NOT three years from the day of the actual treatment.

The reason for this is because the negative impact of misdiagnosis or late diagnosis is often not fully appreciated until the effects begin to show, which could be a substantial time after treatment.

For children, the three-year limit starts on the day of their 18th birthday.

Can a meningitis claim be made after death?

If a meningitis misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis leads to the illness becoming terminal, the right to bring a claim does continue for three years from the date of death.

In sensitive cases like this, our experts will work quickly to establish whether a claim could succeed and do everything possible to deliver clarity and ensure justice is done.

Should the victim pass away before a decision is reached, we work closely with their loved ones to make sure the claim is brought to a conclusion in their absence.

If your child or a loved one dies as the result of a meningitis misdiagnosis, we understand why you might want to gain answers about the circumstances surrounding their death.

Our meningitis claims solicitors will fully support your bid to uncover the truth, holding those who are responsible to account and helping to obtain the apology you deserve. They can also represent you at any subsequent inquest into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

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