Health: Don’t wait for a rash, charity urges

Up to 34 million adults in the UK are risking death with the mistaken belief that the main symptom of meningitis is a rash.

As the country finds itself in the peak season for the devastating disease, national charity, the Meningitis Trust is campaigning to stop this deadly misconception.

The rash that does not fade under pressure, (a sign of blood poisoning) does not always appear with meningitis. When it does it can be one of the last symptoms to be displayed, often too late.

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The Meningitis Trust is worried to hear that 71 per cent of people immediately think of a rash when identifying meningitis – that is why it is hammering home the message ‘Don’t Wait for a Rash’.

Dr Rob Hicks, Health Journalist and Ambassador of the Meningitis Trust says; “Knowing and recognising the other signs and symptoms of meningitis and getting medical help quickly is vital to reduce the devastating impact meningitis can have.

“Symptoms can appear quickly and rapid deterioration is a sign of a medical emergency. Instincts are key for survival; parents and health professionals must trust these”.

The charity is also concerned to find that a further 5.3 million adults in the UK cannot name a single sign or symptom.

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Meningitis can start with ‘flu like’ symptoms. Those to look out for are; fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain. Other symptoms can include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and seizures.

In babies, symptoms can include being floppy and unresponsive, dislike of being handled, rapid breathing, moaning cry and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).

Trust chief executive Sue Davie says: “By thinking meningitis is just a rash, people are risking their lives. You often don’t get a second chance with meningitis, so identifying it correctly is vital”.

To combat the deadly myth, the charity is urging everyone to be aware of all the symptoms. Information is provided free by the Meningitis Trust.

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You can download one of its free smart phone apps available at, visit , or call its freephone 24-hour nurse-led helpline on 0800 028 18 28 and request information or a signs and symptoms card.

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