What can happen after meningitis

Meningitis can affect different children in different ways. Your child’s recovery will depend on the type of meningitis they had, how quickly they got treatment and the extent of any complications.

Meningitis can sometimes cause serious, long-term problems. Bacterial meningitis is more likely than viral meningitis to cause serious problems.

"Most children with bacterial meningitis who are treated will quickly make a good recovery."

But some are left with serious, long-term problems (Meningitis Now, 2018a). About one in every two to three people who recover from bacterial meningitis have at least one permanent after effect (NHS, 2016).

Potential after-effects of bacterial meningitis may include:

  • Hearing loss: The most common long-term problem after bacterial meningitis is hearing loss but it can also happen following viral meningitis. It’s possible your child might have difficulties ranging from mild hearing loss to total deafness in one or both ears after meningitis.
  • Acquired brain injury: It’s uncommon to have severe brain damage after meningitis and this kind of problem is usually obvious within a few days. You might notice in your child more subtle changes that are less obvious and might take months or years to become apparent. Bacterial meningitis can leave some people with memory, concentration and planning difficulties.
  • Learning and behavioural changes: Babies and young children in particular can experience learning difficulties and behavioural problems  after bacterial meningitis. Try not to worry as many of these problems do improve over time.
  • Emotional changes: Young children might have nightmares, wet the bed, be clingy and have tantrums after they’ve had meningitis.
  • Sight problems: The optic nerve can be damaged by bacterial meningitis, which can mean loss of vision, or blindness in one or both eyes. Eyesight problems can be temporary if the optic nerve swells after meningitis. You can contact your GP and ask for an ophthalmology department referral for treatment and support if your child has been affected.

(Viner et al, 2012; Meningitis Now, 2018b)

While the after-effects of viral meningitis are not usually as severe as those of bacterial meningitis, they can still be long-lasting.

Potential after-effects of viral meningitis can include:

  • exhaustion
  • headaches
  • memory loss
  • anxiety
  • depression

  • dizziness or balance problems
  • hearing difficulties.

(Meningitis Now, 2018c)

Treatment and support

While most children fully recover from meningitis, some might be left with serious, long-term problems. Your child might need extra treatment and support if they experience complications or after-effects from meningitis (Meningitis Now, 2018d).

Do try to get support and advice about life after meningitis. You can get it from Meningitis Now and the Meningitis Research Foundation.

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Trust your instincts. Meningitis is a medical emergency. Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if you think you or your child might be seriously ill.

The NHS has more information on meningitis and complications of meningitis.

Our support line offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

Recovering from meningitis or caring for someone who is? Contact the Meningitis Now helpline for support on 0808 80 10 388 or email helpline@meningitisnow.org

If you have a question about meningitis or to find out more about support available from the Meningitis Research Foundation call 080 8800 3344 (UK) or 1800 41 33 44 (Ireland) or email helpline@meningitis.org  

Meningitis Now. (2018a) After effects. Available at:  https://www.meningitis.org/meningitis/after-effects [accessed 8th May 2018].

Meningitis Now. (2018b) After meningitis. Available at:  https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/after-meningitis/ [accessed 8th May 2018].

Meningitis Now. (2018c) Viral meningitis. Available at:  https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/what-is-meningitis/types-and-causes/viral-meningitis/ [accessed 8th May 2018].

Meningitis Now. (2018d) After-effects of septicaemia. Available at:  https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/after-meningitis/after-effects-of-septicaemia/ [accessed 8th May 2018].

NHS. (2016) Meningitis. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/ [accessed 8th May 2018].

Viner RM, Booy R, Johnson H, Edmunds WJ, Hudson L, Bedford H, Christie D (2012). Outcomes of invasive meningococcal serogroup B disease in children and adolescents (MOSAIC): a case-control study.  Lancet Neurol. 11(9):774-783.

Related articles

What can happen after meningitis

Local activities and meetups

NCT Membership
Support NCT Charity by becoming a member

Courses & workshops

Baby First Aid

Find out more

NCT Early Days course

Find out more

NCT Introducing Solid Foods online workshop

Find out more