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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


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.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2018
  • Update Date: 06/14/2018
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