Meningitis happens when the spinal column and brain’s lining become inflamed. This lining is called the meninges. Aseptic meningitis occurs when there are signs of meningitis. However, when a sample of brain fluid is taken, bacteria or fungi are not seen or do not grow.

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The most common causes of aseptic meningitis are:

  • Viral infection due to:
    • Enteroviruses, such as Coxsackie virus
    • Sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes and HIV
    • Other viruses, varicella/zoster, rabies , mumps , and arboviruses like West Nile virus
  • Parasitic infection, such as Lyme disease
  • Mycoplasma, an usual bacteria that can cause pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bacterial meningitis that has not been fully treated
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, sarcoidosis , and Behcet’s disease
  • Cancer that has spread to the meninges
  • Infection near the spinal cord or brain
  • Certain medicines, such as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Risk Factors

Factors that can increase your chance of developing aseptic meningitis include:

  • Being exposed to someone with a viral illness
  • The season—mostly occurs in late spring and summer
  • Working in a daycare or healthcare setting
  • Having a compromised immune system
  • Being a child or teenager—affects children and teens more often than adults
  • Taking certain medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs


Symptoms of aseptic meningitis include.

  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Stiff neck
  • General feeling of illness
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Muscle or abdominal pain
  • Mental confusion
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Nausea or vomiting


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

You may need to have samples taken of your bodily fluids. This can be done with:

You may have pictures taken of your brain. This can be done with:


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Most cases of aseptic meningitis improve with time. Treatment options include:

  • Supportive care—Your doctor may recommend that you rest and drink plenty of fluids. You may need to be hospitalized to be monitored and to stay hydrated.
  • Medicine—If specific causes of meningitis are suspected, your doctor may advise that you take:
    • Antiviral medicine—to treat a viral infection
    • Antibiotics—to treat infections
    • Antifungal medicine
    • Pain medication, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • In certain cases, your doctor may advise that you stop some medications.

Note : Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye's syndrome . Ask your doctor which other medications are safe for your child.


To help reduce your chance of getting aseptic meningitis, take the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often, especially if you:
    • Are in close contact with a person who has an infection
    • Changed the diaper of an infant with an infection
  • If you work in a childcare or healthcare setting, clean objects and surfaces.
  • Be sure all of your vaccinations are up-to-date.

Revision Information

  • Aseptic

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Health Canada

  • Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada

  • Aseptic meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated September 4, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2013.

  • Ginsberg L, Kidd D. Chronic and recurrent meningitis. Pract Neurol . 2008;8(6):348-361.

  • Jolles S, Sewell WA, Leighton C. Drug-induced aseptic meningitis: diagnosis and management. Drug Saf . 2000 Mar;22(3):215-26.

  • Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Updated March 15, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2013.

  • Norris C, Danis P, Gardner T. Aseptic meningitis in the newborn and young infant. Am Fam Physician . 1999;59(10):2761-2770.