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.