Aseptic Meningitis

  • Definition

    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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  • Causes

    The most common causes of aseptic meningitis are:
    • Viral infection due to:
      • Enteroviruses, such as Coxsackie virus
      • Sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes and HIV
      • Other viruses, varicella/zoster, rabies , mumps , and arboviruses like West Nile virus
    • Parasitic infection, such as Lyme disease
    • Mycoplasma, an usual bacteria that can cause pneumonia
    • Tuberculosis
    • Bacterial meningitis that has not been fully treated
    • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, sarcoidosis , and Behcet’s disease
    • Cancer that has spread to the meninges
    • Infection near the spinal cord or brain
    • Certain medicines, such as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that can increase your chance of developing aseptic meningitis include:
    • Being exposed to someone with a viral illness
    • The season—mostly occurs in late spring and summer
    • Working in a daycare or healthcare setting
    • Having a compromised immune system
    • Being a child or teenager—affects children and teens more often than adults
    • Taking certain medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of aseptic meningitis include.
    • Headache
    • Fever and chills
    • Stiff neck
    • General feeling of illness
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Rash
    • Muscle or abdominal pain
    • Mental confusion
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diagnosis

    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:
    You may have pictures taken of your brain. This can be done with:
  • Treatment

    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 infection
      • Antibiotics—to treat infections
      • Antifungal medicine
      • Pain medication, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
    • In certain cases, your doctor may advise that you stop some medications.
    Note : Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye's syndrome . Ask your doctor which other medications are safe for your child.
  • Prevention

    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 infection
      • Changed the diaper of an infant with an infection
    • If you work in a childcare or healthcare setting, clean objects and surfaces.
    • Be sure all of your vaccinations are up-to-date.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


    Health Canada

    Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada


    Aseptic meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated September 4, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2013.

    Ginsberg L, Kidd D. Chronic and recurrent meningitis. Pract Neurol . 2008;8(6):348-361.

    Jolles S, Sewell WA, Leighton C. Drug-induced aseptic meningitis: diagnosis and management. Drug Saf . 2000 Mar;22(3):215-26.

    Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Updated March 15, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2013.

    Norris C, Danis P, Gardner T. Aseptic meningitis in the newborn and young infant. Am Fam Physician . 1999;59(10):2761-2770.

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