Students off to study urged to know the signs of meningitis

A HARD-HITTING campaign aims to arm students with the knowledge to spot meningitis as swift action can save their lives.

Meningitis UK is offering free wallet-size symptoms cards to all students returning to college or university.

Students are particularly susceptible to meningitis, which can kill in four hours, with carriage rates peaking at 19 years old, so it is vital they are clued up about the brain bug.

Meningitis symptoms include a headache, stiff neck and dislike of bright light.

Signs associated with septicaemia – blood poisoning caused by the meningitis bacteria – include cold hands and feet, aching limbs and a pin-prick rash which can rapidly develop into purple bruising.

Meningitis can kill in four hours so it is vital that students look out for each and if they suspect the disease, trust their instincts and seek medical advice immediately.

This is particularly important during the start of term as students can mistake meningitis for a hangover or freshers’ flu.


Why are students susceptible?

Young adults aged 14 to 24 are particularly at risk of meningitis.

Up to a quarter of students carry the meningococcal bacteria that causes meningitis, compared to one in 10 of the general population.

Carriage rates are thought to be higher due to living in close confines and coming into close contact such as through kissing.

Meningitis cases rise during the winter months when students return to study.

Students’ immune systems can be weakened due to pressures such as studying, lack of sleep, poor diet, partying, cold weather and freshers’ flu.

Up to 90 per cent of students fall ill generally during the first weeks of term.


Meningitis can kill in four hours. Prompt treatment saves lives.

Students often mistake the symptoms of meningitis with a hangover.

Classic symptoms of meningitis include a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light while those associated with septicaemia (blood poisoning) include aching limbs, cold hands and feet and a rash.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord.

Successful vaccines exist against some forms but people still aren’t fully protected against all forms.

Around 3,400* people contract bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK each year. 1 in 10 people die and 1 in 4 are left with permanent disabilities.

What should students do?

Know the symptoms and not mistake the disease for a hangover.

Look out for their mates, trust their instincts and if in doubt, seek medical help immediately.

Check their immunisations are up to date by checking with their doctor.

The above is also available in a wallet-size symptoms card, by calling 0117-947-6320 or emailing

The charity also warns students to ensure they are up-to-date with their meningitis vaccinations by checking with their doctor.

Meningitis UK chief executive, Kate Rowland, said: “It’s vital that students know the symptoms of meningitis as they are at risk when they go to college or university.

“We’ve heard of tragic cases where students have gone to sleep off a hangover and been found either dangerously ill or dead in the morning.

“Meningitis can kill in under four hours.

“Knowing the signs can save lives because the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the chances of survival and avoiding outcomes such as limb loss, blindness or deafness.

“Our advice is simple, know the symptoms and if you suspect meningitis – seek medical advice immediately.”

A video for teenagers and students, ‘Meningitis - Know The Signs’, is available on Meningitis UK’s website.

For a free symptoms card and further information, call Meningitis UK on 0117-947-6320 or visit