How to Protect Your Teen From Meningitis

This preventable disease can be fatal
young women getting vaccinated

Anyone with a teenage daughter or son – especially if he or she stays in a college dorm – needs to know about bacterial meningitis, a serious infection of the brain and nervous system.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

This preventable illness can affect students living in close quarters and is spread through intimate actions, like kissing, but alarmingly, even a shared drink or sip from an infected person’s bottle of water can spread the bacteria.

Infections can also become serious very quickly and even when treated with antibiotics, they can result in permanent neurological problems, loss of hearing, amputations, seizures and even death.

Advertising Policy

This all sounds very grim, but it just reinforces the benefits of vaccination, which protects your teen from one of the most common forms of bacterial meningitis.

Specifically, teens (or anyone under age 55)  who need a vaccine will receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). According to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccine prevents four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types most common in the United States and a type that causes epidemics in Africa.

MCV4 vaccine schedules

  • Two doses of MCV4 are recommended for adolescents 11 through 18 years of age: the first dose at 11 or 12 years of age, with a booster dose at age 16. This schedule’s two recommended doses offer earliest protection.
  • If the first dose (or series) isn’t given until your teen is between 13 and 15 years of age, the booster should be given between age 16 and 18.
  • If the first dose (or series) isn’t given until after the 16th birthday, a booster is not needed.

Anyone can get meningococcal disease. But it is most common in infants less than one year of age and people 16-21 years. It’s important to vaccinate to protect teens from this preventable, serious illness.

Advertising Policy