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Pneumococcal Infection in Children

What is pneumococcal infection?

Pneumococcal infection is caused by the pneumococcus bacteria. It can cause serious illness in children. This includes pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis (infection of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord). In young children, pneumococcal infection often causes ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss, or rarely more serious complications, such as meningitis.  

Can I prevent pneumococcal infection in my child?

The best way to prevent the infection is with a vaccine. The pneumococcal vaccine is a shot that helps protect against some of the many types of pneumococcal bacteria. There are currently 2 types of vaccines:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). This is also called Prevnar. This vaccine protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that commonly cause severe illness in children. It can also help prevent some ear infections. PCV13 protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria. Adults with some health conditions can also get this vaccine.

  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). This is also called Pneumovax. This vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine is given to adults. It is only given to children who have long-term health conditions that makes them high-risk. Talk with your child's healthcare provider to find out if your child is high-risk. 

It is also important for your child to get a flu shot every year. This is because the flu may increase your risk of getting pneumococcal disease.

When is PCV13 given?

PCV13 is a routine childhood vaccine. It is given as a series at these ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 12 to 15 months

Children between 2 to 4 years who have not had the vaccine or who have not finished the series of 4 doses should get 1 dose of PCV13.

What are the risks from PCV13?

The most common reactions to PCV13 include:

  • Pain and redness at the location where shot was given

  • Drowsy, irritable or fussy behavior

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches

A vaccine, like any medicine, can very rarely cause severe side effects. These can include a severe allergic reaction. An allergic reaction would most likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot. Signs of an allergic reaction may include:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Swelling of the face or throat

  • Wheezing (squeaking sounds while breathing)

  • Weakness

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Hives

  • Paleness

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your child has these problems. Get medical help right away.

How do I care for my child after the PCV13 vaccine?

Give your child a pain reliever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Make sure it does not contain any aspirin.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2018
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