Encephalitis in children

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain — starting with flu-like symptoms, it can develop into a serious condition

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Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. It starts with flu-like symptoms but can develop into a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. As such, it can sometimes require urgent hospital care. Anyone can get it, though children are particularly vulnerable.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of Encephalitis in children icon plus

    There are two main types of encephalitis: infectious encephalitis (when an infection invades the brain) and autoimmune encephalitis (when the autoimmune system attacks the brain). Infectious encephalitis usually starts with flu-like symptoms, like a headache or high temperature. More serious symptoms can follow hours, days or weeks later. These include confusion, drowsiness and a loss of consciousness; as well as fits, neck stiffness, movement problems and light sensitivity. Autoimmune encephalitis has a later onset of symptoms, including confusion, psychosis, fits, movement problems, memory loss, hallucinations and disturbed sleep.
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    If your child's symptoms are mild, they may be able to be cared for at home. In other cases, they may need to be admitted to hospital. After stabilising your child's symptoms, your consultant will most likely order a number of tests to find out if they have encephalitis. These might include: CT and MRI brain scans electroencephalogram (EEG) various blood tests
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    When it comes to encephalitis, the earlier the treatment the better. Your consultant will explain which treatment options are right for your child. These will vary depending on the cause and nature of their encephalitis and may include: antiviral medication (for infectious encephalitis) autoimmune medication (for autoimmune encephalitis) painkillers to target your fever drugs to control your fits oxygen to support your breathing Depending on the severity of your child's condition, their stay in hospital could vary from days to weeks to months.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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