A POOLE mum whose seven week-old baby contracted meningitis is helping raise awareness of the potentially deadly disease which is more likely to strike over Christmas or the winter months.

Stephanie King was so traumatised by baby Margaux's ordeal that she stopped eating and sleeping and had to have counselling to cope with the stress of so tiny a child contracting the terrifying condition.

"Margaux slept more than usual that day but as she was so young I assumed she was just growing," said Stephanie. "I went to give her a late evening feed but I couldn’t wake her as usual and I noticed she was quite hot. Her temperature was a little high but I assumed it was just from where she had been cosy and asleep.”

“At 3am I woke up as she usually wakes around then for a feed, but she was sound asleep. I could feel the heat radiate from her crib so I took her temperature and it was 39 degrees. It was at this moment I didn't even hesitate and took her to the hospital. When we got to A&E, my baby was a deep, dark, mottled purple colour.”

Doctors gave Margaux antibiotics, did an immediate lumbar puncture which confirmed she had meningitis but could not confirm viral or bacterial for 48 hours. A rash - considered one of the most telling signs of meningitis - only appeared on Margaux’s body the third day after she fell ill. From the lumbar puncture results, doctors confirmed this it was viral meningitis, so they stopped the antibiotics and Margaux recovered ten days later.

“It was the weirdest experience; I was a new mum and had no idea what was happening," said Stephanie. "Margaux kept screaming out, which was thought to be due to a headache. My anxiety was horrendous, I couldn't sleep or eat whilst in hospital but the nurses and doctors were exceptional in helping me. It wasn't until we were discharged that it hit me. I was offered some counselling which I took to discuss my feelings and just to ensure I wasn't anxious around Margaux as that's the last thing I wanted."

In winter there are three times more cases of bacterial meningitis than in summer months. Wintertime illnesses, like flu, are thought to enable meningitis causing bacteria to invade the body more easily through the nose and throat, and they can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods together indoors.

Now Stephanie and Margaux's father, Scott, are supporting the Meningitis Research Foundation's 12 days of Christmas campaign is an urgent call to support twelve days of action to prevent death and disability from meningitis as cases rise in the winter months.

Chief Executive of MRF, Vinny Smith, said: “Stephanie and Scott’s experience highlights how traumatic viral meningitis can be for parents and we’re grateful that she is supporting our Christmas fundraising and awareness campaign. Both bacterial and viral meningitis can occur all year round, but sadly we see even more individuals and families affected by bacterial meningitis during winter, particularly around Christmas, but it can be difficult to recognise at first.

"Even a doctor may not be able to diagnose it in the early stages, which is why it’s so important for everyone to know the symptoms and for parents to trust their instincts.

“If you, or someone you know is ill and getting rapidly worse, people should not be afraid to seek urgent medical help - even if they’ve already been seen by a doctor that same day.”

Early symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.

*More information on meningitis.org/12days or donate to MRF via the family’s justgiving page on https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stephanie-king12