Words by Nik Taylor
Understand the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia so that you can act quickly if you need toHow well do you understand the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia?

These illnesses can affect anybody at any time, striking in minutes and killing in hours, and students are among the most at-risk. Meningitis caused by Men W is on the increase in the UK, so it's important that you get vaccinated and understand the symptoms.

All teenagers, sixth formers and university students are now encouraged by the NHS to get a MEN ACWY vaccination which protects against four different causes of meningitis. If you've not yet been vaccinated, it's important to contact your GP to get one arranged. It's best to get it sorted before you get to uni, but if you've left it till after term starts you still need to contact your GP at university.

Even if you've been vaccinated, It's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis so you can act quickly if necessary.

National charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) has created this poster to help raise awareness of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

Download MRF's poster of the key meningitis and septicaemia symptoms

MRF advises that, although many people are aware of the classic 'rash' symptom with meningitis, there are many types of meningitis where a rash does not appear at all.

Other symptoms that MRF advises you should look out for:
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Neck stiffness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Being confused/delirious

When meningitis strikes, it does so very quickly. It's important to be aware of the signs of meningitis in both yourself and your friends, so make sure you are looking out for each other.

George Lane, a second year student at York University, had meningitis three times when he was six years old and again just before his 18th birthday – here he talks about his experiences

“Students and young adults are the second most ‘at-risk’ group in the UK after children under five," says Chris Head, chief executive of MRF. "They are more vulnerable to meningitis and septicaemia as they are in new environments such as shared houses and halls of residences and are exposed to greater levels of bacteria and viruses.

"Traditionally cases begin to rise among this group in the autumn and winter so it’s vital that students know what the symptoms of meningitis are so they can tell the difference between them and more common flu-like illnesses or just a hangover.”

MRF provides a free iPhone app for students which includes a symptoms checker and emergency hospital information. The MRF-endorsed Symptom Scenes iPhone game can also help you learn the symptoms.

Fellow charity Meningitis Trust also provides a free symptom-checker app (for both Android and iPhone).