Health Library Home>Disease, Condition, & Injury Fact Sheets>Article

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.


Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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


Health Canada

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: 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