Brain Infections

Also known as: inflammatory brain disease, spinal inflammatory disorders, abscess, meningitis, encephalitis.

What are brain infections?

The brain and its coverings (meninges) can become infected by a wide variety of infections which include bacteria, viruses and uncommonly parasites and fungi. Depending on the part of the brain involved, different names are given to the diseases.

  • Meningitis is the inflammation of the brain’s surrounding tissues (meninges).
  • Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain itself.
  • Brain abscess is the localized collection of inflammation cells and fluids.

What causes brain infections?

Brain infections occur from an infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.

Infants may acquire a brain infection from their mother prior to or during birth. Children at increased risk for developing a brain infections include those who have a infection of the coverings of the brain (meningitis); a congenital heart defect; chronic ear and sinus infection; teeth and jaw infections; the presence of foreign material involving the brain (like cerebrospinal shunts); diabetes and children who have congenital or acquired difficulty in fighting infections (immune problems).

What are the symptoms of brain infections?

In babies and young infants, symptoms include; fever, a full/bulging fontanelle drowsiness and/or irritability, a high pitched cry, difficulty feeding, vomiting and seizures.

Older children may present with gradual or sudden; fever, vomiting, headache, seizures, stiff limbs, behavior and/personality changes and difficulty talking and walking.

What are brain infection care options?

Depending on a number of factors, the goal of management is to diagnose and treat the problem early. Hospitalization with antibiotics, (where appropriate), with other medications as needed, depending on complications present.

Physical, occupational and speech therapy may be required subsequently to assist the child to reach his/her full potential.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: October 07, 2020 03:33 PM

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