Trust your instincts

Did you know that “just a cold” can turn deadly in a matter of hours?
Monday, 7 pm
Just look how sick her big sister is. No wonder Aurora gets it even worse, she’s just a baby!

Tuesday, 1 am
Should we see the doctor again? But we had her checked only 12 hours ago!

She’s had a fever for three days straight, no wonder she’s fussy.

Wow, I just sneezed loudly twice, and she did’t even react. Usually she jumps out of her skin at loud noises. She must be really sick, poor thing.

Should we take her to the on call doctor? But it’s the middle of the night. And it’s -15 degrees Celcius outside! Will we make her even worse by taking her outside now? Who will go with her, and who should stay here with Iris? Should we call their grandparents for help? But it is the middle of the night. Should we just wait until morning?

Tuesday, 3 am
Wow, that’s a lot of spit-up, even for her.

Why won’t she sleep?

Tuesday, 9 am
No wonder she’s lethargic, she hasn’t slept all night, she’s really sick and she has a fever.

Tuesday, 11 am
It looks like she has a stomach ache, maybe she’s caught a stomach bug?

Tuesday, 12 pm
Why won’t she nurse?

Tuesday 1 pm
What if she becomes dehydrated?

Good, at least she’s drinking some milk when I feed her with a syringe.

She won’t swallow.

She’s not reacting to my voice.

She looks dead. But she’s breathing.

Okay, call the doctor. Now.

From “just a cold” to deadly disease
At some point during those last 12 hours Aurora’s cold (which, we learned later, was an RSV infection) turned into deadly meningitis and encephalitis. Meningitis symptoms in small children are very much like cold or flu symptoms – so how can you tell if your child has meningitis before it’s too late?


The first thing you can do is educate yourself. Know the signs and symptoms. Not just the late symptoms, such as seizures and rash, but the early warning signs, such as nausea, headache, sensitivity to light, fever and so on.

Symptoms children

The second thing to do, is trust your instincts. If your parental instinct tells you to call or see a doctor, even if you did so just a few hours ago, do it. Do not write off your worries as hysterics. Harshly put: it’s better to nag a doctor than to lose your child. Meningitis can turn deadly really, really quickly.

I wish I’d trusted my instincts that night. Instead I waited until morning and early afternoon before taking action. It could have been to late. Although everyone keeps telling us we did everything we could, I can’t help but wonder if the after effects would have been less severe if Aurora had gotten to hospital earlier. There is no way of knowing. What I do know is, if Aurora had died that day, I would have blamed myself for the rest of my life.


All images are from the World Meningitis Day toolkit, which can be found on The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations’ website.