Meningitis is a serious infection that can be bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral. The infection affects protective membranes in the brain and spinal cord. It can quickly spread and cause further health complications.

As a parent, it’s important to ensure that your child is protected against this disease. Read on to learn more about the most common risk factors for meningitis.

Age

Meningitis tends to occur most often in teens and young adults. Infants may also be at an increased risk. Adults can get meningitis if they have weakened immune systems. Adult healthcare professionals are also at increased of exposure to meningitis.

Medical history

Meningitis tends to affect people who have decreased immunity more than people who don’t have underlying health conditions. The following medical considerations could increase your child’s risk of this type of infection:

  • brain surgery
  • cancer
  • chronic ear or nose infections
  • corticosteroid use
  • diabetes
  • history of a blood infection
  • immune system disorders
  • HIV or AIDS
  • previous head injuries
  • recent infection
  • kidney disease
  • sickle cell disease
  • spinal surgery
  • spleen removal

Living in community settings

There have been several outbreaks of meningitis at colleges in the past few years. Due to this, the infection is often seen as something that only happens in dorm rooms and other forms of student housing.

But it isn’t the colleges themselves that are hosts for meningitis. The infection can cause an outbreak in any community setting where large groups of people live in close contact and hang out together. Your child may be at risk when they go to college, but keep in mind that any large group setting carries a similar risk.

Travel plans

Any travel plans your child may have could also increase their risk for meningitis. This primarily depends on two factors.

First, overseas travel to certain parts of the world can increase their risk because of outbreaks. In March 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended meningitis vaccines for people traveling to sub-Saharan Africa. The CDC regularly updates travel warnings for meningitis and other diseases, so be sure to check out any precautions before your child or teen travels.

Second, traveling can increase the risk of meningitis if your teen is in a large group setting. Infection can spread quickly in groups whether you’re traveling the world or just going to camp.

Vaccination history

Your child’s vaccination history also plays a key role in their overall risk for meningitis. While some people may feel apprehensive about vaccinations, the fact is that the meningitis vaccine continues to be the most reliable form of protection against this type of infection.

The meningococcal conjugate vaccination (MCV4) is recommended by the CDC for anyone at risk for meningitis. This is a long-term vaccine that’s usually first administered in preteens. It protects against the four most common types of meningococcal bacterial meningitis only. Children who get MCV4 at age 11 will usually need a booster shot by the time they’re 16 years old.

Another vaccination option is called the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (MenB). This is designed to also protect against another type of meningococcal bacterial meningitis, but with more short-term results.

Vaccines for meningitis only last for about five years on average. Your child may need a booster shot for added protection.

Keep all of these risk factors for meningitis in mind for your child. And remember to talk to your doctor about vaccination options if your child is:

  • an incoming college freshman
  • a college student with no history of meningitis vaccinations
  • planning to travel outside of the United States
  • at risk for infections from immune system issues
  • planning on joining the military