The treatment depends on the type of meningitis you or your child has.
Acute bacterial meningitis requires prompt treatment with intravenous antibiotics and, more recently, cortisone medications, to ensure recovery and reduce the risk of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures. The antibiotic or combination of antibiotics that your doctor may choose depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection. Your doctor may recommend a broad-spectrum antibiotic until he or she can determine the exact cause of the meningitis.
Infected sinuses or mastoids — the bones behind the outer ear that connect to the middle ear — may need to be drained.
Antibiotics can't cure viral meningitis, and most cases improve on their own in several weeks. Treatment of mild cases of viral meningitis usually includes:
- Bed rest
- Plenty of fluids
- Over-the-counter pain medications to help reduce fever and relieve body aches
If the cause of your meningitis is a herpes virus, an antiviral medication is available.
Other types of meningitis
If the cause of your meningitis is unclear, your doctor may start antiviral and antibiotic treatment while a cause is being determined.
Fungal meningitis is treated with antifungal medications. However, these medications can have serious side effects, so treatment may be deferred until a laboratory can confirm that the cause is fungal. Chronic meningitis is treated based on the underlying cause, which is often fungal.
Noninfectious meningitis due to allergic reaction or autoimmune disease may be treated with cortisone medications. In some cases, no treatment may be required, because the condition can resolve on its own. Cancer-related meningitis requires therapy for the individual cancer.
March 19, 2013
- Meningitis and encephalitis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/encephalitis_meningitis/detail_encephalitis_meningitis.htm. Accessed Dec. 29, 2012.
- Bacterial meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html. Accessed Jan. 2, 2013.
- Bartt R. Acute bacterial and viral meningitis. Continuum Lifelong Learning in Neurology. 2012;18:1255.
- Viral meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/viral.html. Accessed Jan. 2, 2013.
- Fungal meningitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/fungal.html. Accessed Jan. 2, 2013.
- Derber CJ, et al. Head and neck emergencies. Medical Clinics of North America. 2012;96:1107.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
- Acute bacterial meningitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/meningitis/acute_bacterial_meningitis.html. Accessed Dec. 31, 2012.
- Prevention — Listeriosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/prevention.html. Accessed Jan. 2, 2013.
- Subacute and chronic meningitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/meningitis/subacute_and_chronic_meningitis.html. Accessed Jan. 2, 2013.
- Van de Beek D, et al. Advances in treatment of bacterial meningitis. The Lancet. 2012;380:1693.
- Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 0 through 18 years — United States, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html. Accessed Feb. 19, 2013.
- Recommended adult immunization schedule — United States, 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-schedule.pdf. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
- Meningococcal vaccine: Who and when to vaccinate. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/who-vaccinate-hcp.htm. Accessed Dec. 28, 2012.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.