Aseptic Meningitis


Meningitis is swelling of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. A higher number of white blood cells is present during aseptic meningitis (AM). But the exact cause cannot be found.


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AM may stem from:

  • Infections from:
    • Viruses
    • Parasites
    • Bacteria
    • Fungi
  • Partially treated bacterial meningitis
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Certain cancers
  • Certain medicines, such as antibiotics

Risk Factors

Your risk is higher if you have any of the problems listed above.

Other factors are:

  • Being around someone who has been sick
  • The season—common in the summer and early fall
  • Working in a daycare or healthcare setting


Symptoms range from mild to severe. You may have:

  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Belly pain
  • Rash


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history.

You may need to have:

  • A physical
  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture —to test the fluid around your brain and spine

Pictures may be taken. This can be done with:


Most people get better with time. Care depends on the cause. It may involve:

  • Medicines to treat the cause of the infection
  • Pain relievers
  • Steroids to lower inflammation

Your doctor will stop any medicines that are causing problems.

Note: Aspirin is not advised for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.


To lower your chance of AM:

  • Wash your hands often, especially if you:
    • Are around 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
National Meningitis Association


Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada


Aseptic meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed June 18, 2018.
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;22(3):215-226.
Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 28, 2017. Accessed June 18, 2018.
Norris C, Danis P, Gardner T. Aseptic meningitis in the newborn and young infant. Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(10):2761-2770.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 6/14/2018

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