by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Meningitis is inflammation of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. A higher number of white blood cells is present during aseptic meningitis (AM).

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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 and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS)

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the risk of meningitis include:

  • Certain cancers
  • Health issues or medicine that affects immune system
  • 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 health history. A physical exam will be done. The fluid around the spine and brain will be tested. It will confirm meningitis. Tests of the blood and fluid may be done to look for a cause.

Images of the brain and spine may be taken with the:


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
  • Surfaces or objects that are touched often should be cleaned on a regular basis.
  • 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 website. Available at:  . Updated July 25, 2019. Accessed September 13, 2019.

Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated March 13, 2019. Accessed June 18, 2018.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 09/13/2019