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Is your childcare setting meningitis aware?

At Meningitis Now we are passionate that everyone should know about the signs and symptoms of the disease and act fast should they suspect meningitis. Awareness can, and does, save lives and improve outcomes. With babies and young children being at greatest risk and many being in the care of childcare providers when parents are at work, we have developed the world’s first Meningitis Aware Recognition Mark (MARM) for the sector, to help them recognise the disease and take the appropriate action.

A checklist has been developed so that those providing childcare to the under-5s can ensure that staff, parents and carers know about meningitis. A childcare setting that completes this and achieves the mark, demonstrates that they are aware of the signs and symptoms, the importance of vaccination in the prevention of meningitis and know what action to take if they suspect meningitis or if there is an outbreak.

So why should I know about meningitis?

Meningitis is the disease parents fear the most. There are approximately 8,000 cases of all types of meningitis each year in the UK. About half of which will be in the under 5s. Recently there have been many cases in the news of meningitis affecting young children. Each case a tragedy for the individual, their family and friends. It is a serious disease which causes inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Many different organisms can cause meningitis, but the most common that we see in this country are viruses and bacteria.

Viral meningitis can make babies and young children very unwell but is rarely life-threatening. Most children make a good recovery; however, this can take time. Bacterial meningitis can kill, so urgent medical attention is essential. Although most babies and young children make a good recovery, some are left with lifelong after-effects such as hearing loss, epilepsy, limb loss or learning difficulties. Some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning).

Signs and symptoms

As a childcare provider, it is vital that you, your staff (in a nursery setting) and parents are aware of all the signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical help if you are concerned. Early recognition and treatment reduces the likelihood of meningitis and septicaemia being life-threatening and resulting in lifelong after-effects. It is not always easy to recognise the signs and symptoms in young babies, therefore it is important to trust your instincts.

Why is the ‘mark’ so important’?

Many of the children in your care are likely to be fully vaccinated, however vaccines do not protect against all types of meningitis. Registering, completing and displaying the ‘Mark’ shows parents and prospective parents, that whilst in your care, you know what signs and symptoms to be aware of. Raising awareness in your childcare setting can save lives. More cases occur in this age group than any other, so awareness is key.

To access the toolkit and start working towards becoming a ‘meningitis aware’ childcare setting, please visit the website. On completion of the checklist the awarded recognition mark can be used across digital platforms and on a wide variety of marketing and publicity materials

If all childcare providers across the UK registered and completed the recognition mark, the impact of this awful disease can be greatly reduced. We need everyone to know what to look out for and the seriousness of the illness. Awareness makes all the difference.

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