“Traffic light” system to diagnose meningitis

Doctors have been ordered to follow a "traffic light" system of signs to prevent them missing cases of meningitis and other serious illnesses.


The official guidance directs them to trust the instincts of parents who believe their child has a fever.


If a parent reports a “red” symptom – such as very high temperature or mottled skin which could mean meningitis – the child must be seen face-to-face within two hours or admitted to hospital.

Any “amber” symptoms, including skin pallor or fever lasting more than five days, should be carefully monitored, and parents must be told how they can get help if they worsen.

A doctor could treat a case as “green” if the child has a normal cry and no trouble breathing, and the parent will be told that a serious illness is unlikely.

But in all cases, doctors are told to show faith in the instincts of the parent – even if they have not taken their child’s temperature.

The guidelines, from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, address concerns that parents often cannot get prompt attention when they believe their child is seriously ill.


In some cases, deaths or disability from meningitis could have been avoided if children had been treated more quickly.

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