NATIONAL charity, the Meningitis Trust, is issuing a warning as Worcestershire children start back at school for the autumn/winter months.

The end of September sees the start of the peak season for meningitis so the charity is urging all parents, students and teachers to be vigilant of the signs and symptoms.

While children under five are most ‘at risk’ for meningitis, teenagers and students are the second most ‘at risk’ group (aged 15–23 years). It is estimated that 10 per cent of the population carry the organism which causes meningitis, but this increases to up to 30 per cent for teenagers and young people.

The risk of meningitis increases during the colder months as people spend more time indoors, closer to others; meaning germs are spread more easily. Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease.

The symptoms of meningitis can include fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, joint or muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, drowsiness and confusion. In babies, a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry, rapid breathing and bulging fontanelle.

Both adults and children may also have a rash that does not fade under pressure. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all. If concerned, seek urgent medical attention.

The trust has a free signs and symptoms application for the iPhone and Android, which can be downloaded from , as well as free credit card sized signs and symptoms cards. To get hold of one, call its freephone 24-hour nurse-led helpline on 0808 80 10 388, or visit .