New research from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has found that 38% of parents in the UK wrongly believe that a distinctive rash is the first symptom of Meningitis.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord and can be very serious if not treated quickly.

The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling generally unwell.

A survey of 2,000 parents across the country has been carried out as part of GSK’s Tackle Meningitis campaign, in partnership with former England Rugby player Matt Dawson.

The survey was supported by UK charities Meningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis Now and revealed that awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis remains low despite 92% of parents surveyed believing that meningitis is a very serious condition.

Several other important barriers to greater awareness were also flagged as part of the survey, which included a lack of knowledge about the age ranges at risk and how the disease is passed on.

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“This terrible disease is difficult to spot so it is vital that parents are prepared and act quickly if a sick child gets rapidly worse.”

Responding to the survey, 81% of the people said that the rash was the most commonly associated symptom.

When asked what causes the rash, only 16% of parents said they were aware it is caused by the onset of septicaemia, also known as blood poisoning.

Respondents were not familiar with symptoms such as muscle pain (54%), vomiting (42%) or cold hands and feet (27%).

When asked how they would seek medical attention if they suspected meningitis, 92% said they would act immediately, and 73% said their child would be straight taken to A&E.

Meningitis Research Foundation support head Rob Dawson said: “This terrible disease is difficult to spot so it is vital that parents are prepared and act quickly if a sick child gets rapidly worse.

“Don’t wait for a rash. It doesn’t appear in all cases. Where it does appear, a child is already in serious danger. Knowing the early symptoms and seeking medical help fast saves lives.”