Often when we are training first aiders about Meningitis, people think that the main sign and symptom they should look out for is a distinctive rash.

It’s super important that we do know about how to recognise and test this rash, but even more important that we all understand that a rash does not always appear. We should not wait for a rash if we suspect meningitis.

Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges –  which are the linings that surround the brain. It can be caused by many things including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Septicaemia is blood poisoning, and it is caused when bacteria enters the bloodstream and multiplies uncontrollably. If meningitis is caused by bacteria, it can cause both meningitis and septicaemia to occur at the same time, which is known as meningococcal disease.

It is when meningitis and septicaemia (caused by bacterial meningitis) occur at the same time that a rash may appear. The rash, which can look like tiny ‘pin pricks’ or purple bruising, is actually a sign of septicemia – so it will not always appear.

However, if this distinctive rash does appear it is an urgent medical emergency – and the casualty requires urgent medical assistance.

The ‘glass test’

The rash caused by septicemia does not fade under pressure.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
  • Spots/rash may fade at first
  • Keep checking
  • Fever with spots/rash that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency
  • Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately
  • On dark skin, the spots/rash can be more difficult to see.
  • Be aware of all meningitis signs and symptoms.

Download Meningitis Now’s App signs and symptoms app now!

Click here to visit their download page, available for iOS and Android.

The bottom line: Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.


Richard Craddock

Richard is the Managing Director at SkillBase First Aid

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