Encephalitis is a swelling (inflammation) in the brain. It is usually caused by a virus. The normal blood flow to the brain changes. This can cause confusion, a high fever, and a severe headache. You also may be sleepy and sensitive to light. And you may have nausea and a stiff neck and back. In more serious cases, a person may have seizures or tremors.
Your doctor may give you medicine to help your body get rid of the virus. You may have some symptoms for several weeks or longer while your body slowly heals. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy. This can help you get stronger and active again.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), for pain and discomfort. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of rest. This helps your body heal.
- Keep the lights dim if your eyes are sensitive to light.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have a seizure.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have a fever.
- You have a severe headache.
- You have a stiff neck.
- You are nauseated or are vomiting.
- You are confused or cannot think clearly.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You notice new numbness or weakness.
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter F823 in the search box to learn more about "Encephalitis: Care Instructions".
Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Christine Hahn MD - Epidemiology