Meningitis happens when the spinal column and brain’s lining become inflamed. This lining is called the meninges. Aseptic meningitis occurs when there are signs of meningitis. However, when a sample of brain fluid is taken, bacteria or fungi are not seen or do not grow.
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The most common causes of aseptic meningitis are:
Viral infection due to:
Enteroviruses, such as Coxsackie virus
Sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes and
Other viruses, varicella/zoster,
and arboviruses like
West Nile virus
Parasitic infection, such as
Lyme diseaseMycoplasma, an usual bacteria that can cause pneumoniaTuberculosisBacterial meningitis
that has not been fully treated
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus,
Behcet’s diseaseCancer that has spread to the meningesInfection near the spinal cord or brainCertain medicines, such as
and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Factors that can increase your chance of developing aseptic meningitis include: Being exposed to someone with a viral illnessThe season—mostly occurs in late spring and summerWorking in a daycare or healthcare settingHaving a compromised immune systemBeing a child or teenager—affects children and teens more often than adultsTaking certain medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Symptoms of aseptic meningitis include. HeadacheFever and chillsStiff neckGeneral feeling of illnessSore throatFatigueRashMuscle or abdominal painMental confusionSensitivity to lightNausea or vomiting
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
You may need to have samples taken of your bodily fluids. This can be done with: Blood testsLumbar puncture
—also called a spinal tap
You may have pictures taken of your brain. This can be done with: MRI scanCT scan
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Most cases of aseptic meningitis improve with time. Treatment options include: Supportive care—Your doctor may recommend that you rest and drink plenty of fluids. You may need to be hospitalized to be monitored and to stay hydrated.
Medicine—If specific causes of meningitis are suspected, your doctor may advise that you take:
Antiviral medicine—to treat a viral infectionAntibiotics—to treat infectionsAntifungal medicinePain medication, such as
ibuprofenIn certain cases, your doctor may advise that you stop some medications.
: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or
recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of
. Ask your doctor which other medications are safe for your child.
To help reduce your chance of getting aseptic meningitis, take the following steps: Wash your hands
often, especially if you:
Are in close contact with a person who has an infectionChanged the diaper of an infant with an infectionIf you work in a childcare or healthcare setting, clean objects and surfaces.Be sure all of your vaccinations are up-to-date.
Ginsberg L, Kidd D. Chronic and recurrent meningitis.
Jolles S, Sewell WA, Leighton C. Drug-induced aseptic meningitis: diagnosis and management.
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Norris C, Danis P, Gardner T. Aseptic meningitis in the newborn and young infant.
Am Fam Physician
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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