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How To Rule out Meningitis as a Cause of a Stiff Neck

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Updated April 04, 2014

Stiff necks can be annoying, but they might also be a sign of a serious infection, tumor or other problem that does not originate in the neck.

Meningitis is an infection in the membrane and fluid of the brain that could (if it is the bacterial kind) require medical attention ASAP.

So if you are experiencing a stiff neck, it is a good idea to try to rule out meningitis as the cause. If, after reading this you cannot, please see a doctor as soon as possible.

Time Required: 1-2 Days (or less, if possible)

Here's How:

  1. Do you have a stiff neck?

    If the answer is no, you can find other Back and Neck Injury / Chronic Pain Injury issues on the Back and Neck Injury / Chronic Pain site homepage.

  2. If the answer to Step #1 is yes, then check for the presence of accompanying symptoms.

    In the last few hours to 1-2 days have you had:
  3. Do you or have you recently been spending time with a person who has an infection? Specifically have you been:
    • sharing food or utensils with them
    • having physical contact with them
    • caretaking for small children?
  4. Do you have a chronic illness, especially a ear or nose infection? People with chronic illnesses may be more suseptible to meningitis.

  5. Are you a college student living in a dorm? College freshmen, especially, are at a higher risk for infection. There are vaccines for meningitis, and you can ask the student clinic at your school for more information.

  6. Have you been travelling lately? There are some parts of the world that experience outbreaks of epidemics. To check if you need a vaccination, you can call the CDC at: (404)-332-4565. The CDC recommends to travelers to get the vacine at least one week before leaving on their trip.

  7. For your own protection, learn more about bacterial meningitis, viral meningitis, meningitis in general the symptoms of meningitis, and how contagious meningitis is.

  8. If you are unsure of the risks for or symptoms of meningitis, take a few moments to go through the Meningitis Awareness Quiz to clarify your knowledge of the subject. It may save your life!

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