Since becoming a mum, I’ve caught myself saying the exact same things as my mum. Can anyone else relate? My mum was always telling me to look after myself by getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, exercising and washing my hands before eating. She helped me create healthy habits that have kept me well most of my life. Since becoming a mum, I find myself teaching my son these same healthy habits! Preventative health care is the best care, and a part of being a mum is that you’re also dubbed with the role of number one protector and nurse for your child. What a privilege to have that responsibility! However, there’s a lot of information to take in as a new mum, so I thought I would shed some light on one disease that I think is really important to be aware of the symptoms. Its effects are devastating and fast-acting for anyone, but particularly children under five.
The disease I am talking about is meningococcal disease. I recognised the word meningococcal from my mum, who was conscious of the disease when we were kids. If we ever complained of not feeling well, she would ask us questions about our head and vision, if our neck was feeling stiff, and would also check our temperature and body for rashes. What I didn’t know, along with almost half (46%) of Australian parents, is that there’s four strains found in Australia, and routine childhood vaccination does not cover all strains of meningococcal disease[i].
As I was looking into it more when Finn was born, I realised that meningococcal disease is a rare bacterial infection of the blood and membranes that line the spinal cord and brain. Even when the disease is treated, it can be life threatening or result in long term disabilities[ii]. I found seeing photos of those who had suffered from it and their stories quite confronting. Infants, young children under five and adolescents are at the highest risk, particularly babies under 12 months, though anyone can be affected. Once contracted, the disease escalates rapidly and can cause death within 24 hours[iii]. This is why it is important to be educated on the signs of meningococcal disease, especially if you have a young child who cannot quite communicate what they are feeling to you.
Signs and Symptoms of meningococcal disease
After becoming more aware of meningococcal disease, I booked an appointment with my GP and discussed what options there were to reduce Finn’s chances of contracting this awful disease. The GP discussed this with me and also made sure I was well informed of the signs of meningococcal disease such as[iv]:
high fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, or a reddish or purple skin rash.
The doctor told me that if I have suspicions of my child having the disease, to call an ambulance or go straight to the hospital.
Prevention options for meningococcal disease
Make sure you ask your doctor specifically about the disease. Forty-three per cent of Australian parents with young children depend on their GP for information about vaccinations – yet 36 per cent had no idea that other vaccinations not provided as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule[v].
Finn’s health is my responsibility
I feel responsible as a mum for Finn’s health especially while he is at such a young age, so I do everything in my power to keep him healthy. Vaccination is important to me to prevent him contracting anything that could have very serious consequences.
I would encourage all mums, not just expecting mums, to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and talk to your GP about meningococcal disease prevention options. The more informed we are, the more protected our children will be. It might just save their life.
This blog post was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Australia Pty Ltd (GSK). Eat Pray Workout has partnered with GSK to increase knowledge and understanding of meningococcal disease, and to help prevent the spread and impact of this devastating disease. This post aims to be informational and does not constitute professional medical advice, please see you GP for more information.
[i] GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) commissioned Ipsos to conduct an online survey in May 2017. The survey was a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Australian adult respondents (18+) with children under four years of age, to determine the understanding of parents on meningococcal disease, vaccination behaviour, beliefs and knowledge.
[ii] CDC VPD manual Chapter 8: Meningococcal disease. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.pdf
[iii] As per reference to end note ii
[v] As per reference to end note i