Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue. This stops the brain from working properly. It’s a serious condition.
Encephalitis can happen in children of all ages, although it’s fairly uncommon.
Encephalitis is a medical emergency and needs immediate treatment. If you think your child might have encephalitis, take them straight to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Encephalitis usually comes on very suddenly.
A child with encephalitis can:
- become sleepy
- be confused
- start acting strangely
- have sudden changes in personality.
The illness can progress, causing symptoms like seizures, muscle weakness or paralysis. It might eventually lead to a coma.
Medical help: when to get it for children with encephalitis
Your child needs urgent medical attention.
Immediately take your child to your nearest hospital emergency department if your child:
- is confused, drowsy or not responding as they usually would
- has a sudden change in personality
- has a fever, vomiting or headache
- has abnormal body movements like seizures or weaknesses in their arms or legs.
You know your child best. If your child seems unwell, trust your instincts and seek medical attention.
Tests for encephalitis
If doctors think there’s a possibility of encephalitis, they’ll do a lot of tests to confirm your child’s diagnosis and work out the cause of the inflammation.
Treatment for encephalitis
If your child has encephalitis, they’ll need to spend some time in hospital for close monitoring and care.
In hospital, your child might be given anti-viral medications and antibiotics.
Complications of encephalitis
If the encephalitis is severe, especially in younger children, there’s a risk of longer-term complications like muscle weakness or speech and developmental problems.
Prevention of encephalitis
Causes of encephalitis
The most common cause of encephalitis is a viral infection. The viruses that most commonly causes encephalitis are enterovirus, parechovirus, herpes simplex virus (which also causes cold sores), chickenpox, measles and glandular fever viruses.
Encephalitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection, but this is less common.
Sometimes encephalitis might happen because of autoimmune disease.
For some people, the cause of encephalitis is never found.