Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The treatment depends on the type of meningitis you or your child has.

Bacterial meningitis

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.

Viral meningitis

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.

Mar. 19, 2013