Speak Up About Meningitis

Educate Yourself and Your Teen About Meningitis

Talk to your teen about the potentially devastating effects of meningococcal meningitis and the need for 2 vaccinations. Here are a few healthy habits that can help prevent meningitis:

  • Ensure your child or teen is fully vaccinated against meningococcal disease.1
  • Tell your child or teen to avoid sharing glasses, sharing eating utensils, and toothbrushes—anything that someone has put in or near their mouth.2-4
  • Make sure your child or teen is getting enough sleep. Being tired or having irregular sleep patterns can weaken the immune system, which may make a teen more prone to meningitis.5
  • Advise your child or teen to stay away from smoke and smoking. Studies have shown that smoking or being around people who smoke can increase one's chances of catching meningococcal meningitis.6-8

Questions for Your Health Care Provider

When you visit your teen’s doctor or nurse, you could ask these questions to get the conversation started:

"Has my child been vaccinated against meningococcal disease? When will he or she need a booster shot?"

If YES, then ask:

  • "When was my child vaccinated for meningococcal disease? Is that vaccination still effective?"
  • "What else can I do to help protect my child from meningococcal disease?"

If NO, then ask:

  • "Why wasn’t my child vaccinated?"
  • "Doesn’t the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccination?"
  • "Can my child get vaccinated now?"
  • According to public health officials, should I be educated about meningococcal disease and should my child be offered the vaccine before attending high school, summer camp, or college?

The Right Opportunity

Your teenager probably doesn’t go to the doctor as much as younger kids do, but you could always call your doctor or discuss meningococcal disease and its prevention when your teen is at the doctor for:

  • Routine well visits
  • Visits for acne management
  • Annual back-to-school checkups
  • Pre-college checkups
  • Visits for seasonal allergies
  • Sick visits for minor illnesses
  • Checkups before summer camp
  • Sports physicals

Next: Meningitis Video Library


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years and adults aged 19 years and older—United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(suppl):1-19.
  2. Apicella MA. Neisseria meningitidis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2010:2737-2752.
  3. Atkinson W, Wolfe S, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, eds. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 12th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation; 2011.
  4. Tunkel AR, van de Beek D, Scheld MW. Acute meningitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2010:1189-1229.
  5. Imeri L, Opp MR. How (and why) the immune system makes us sleep. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009;10(3):199-210.
  6. Coen PG, Tully J, Stuart JM, Ashby D, Viner RM, Booy R. Is it exposure to cigarette smoke or to smokers which increases the risk of meningococcal disease in teenagers? Int J Epidemiol. 2006;35(2):330-336.
  7. Murray RL, Britton J, Leonardi-Bee J. Second hand smoke exposure and the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:1062-1073.
  8. MacLennan J, Kafatos G, Neal K, et al; United Kingdom Meningococcal Carriage Group. Social behavior and meningococcal carriage in British teenagers. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12(6):950-957.