Meningitis Glass Test

A rash that does not fade under pressure can be a sign of meningococcal septicaemia (meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia). Using the glass test on a rash that appears on someone's skin will help you to determine whether the rash is a medical emergency or not

Glass test LB

People with septicaemia may develop a red rash of tiny ‘pin pricks’, which can develop into purple bruising.

This rash does not fade under pressure.

The meningitis glass test

Performing the meningitis glass test is very straight forward, follow the instructions below:

  • Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
  • Spots/rash may fade at first
  • Keep checking
  • Fever with spots/rash that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency
  • Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately

On dark skin, the spots/rash can be more difficult to see, check lighter areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, inside the eyelids and the roof of the mouth. Be aware of all meningitis signs and symptoms.

What is the rash?

The rash associated with meningitis is actually caused by septicaemia, more information below:

  • Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia 
  • People will often have both together
  • When the bacteria are in the bloodstream, they multiply rapidly and begin to release endotoxins (poisons) from their outer coating
  • The body’s natural defences have little effect on these poisons and eventually blood vessels become damaged. As septicaemia advances, it affects the whole body and can cause organ damage or failure
  • The rash associated with septicaemia is caused by blood leaking into the tissues under the skin

It’s important to know that septicaemia can also cause other more specific symptoms to look out for (as well as the red rash):

  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhoea

If you are worried about spotting the symptoms in time, let us help you. Download our phone optimised videos and images on your phone, or request one of our free credit-card sized signs and symptoms cards by calling our Meningitis Helpline on 0808 80 10 388.

Concerned about meningitis?

  • If you live on your own, always make sure you tell someone if you are not feeling well. They can check up on you and take action if needed
  • Trust your instincts. You know your loved ones, and your own body, best
  • Describe the symptoms and say you think it could be meningitis or septicaemia
  • Early diagnosis can be difficult. If you have had medical advice and are still worried, get medical help again 

Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.

Septicaemia and sepsis

Many medical experts now use the term sepsis instead of septicaemia. Sepsis describes the life-threatening condition that arises when the body's response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs.

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