Children's Health and Wellness

Pneumococcal Infection in Children

What is pneumococcal infection?

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

Can I prevent pneumococcal infection?

The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is by getting vaccinated. 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 or Prevnar). This vaccine protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal that causes 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 certain medical conditions can also get this vaccine.

  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). This vaccine protects against 23 types of bacteria.  Talk with your child's health care provider about whether or not your child is high-risk. 

It is also important to get a flu shot every year because having the flu increases your risk of getting pneumococcal disease.

When is PCV13 given?

PCV13 is one of the routine childhood immunizations. It is given as a series at the following 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 one dose of PCV13.

What are the risks from PCV13?

A vaccine, like any medication, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the most common reactions to PCV13 include the following:

  • Pain and redness at the location where shot was given

  • Fever

  • Muscle aches

  • 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 difficulty breathing, wheezing, (squeaking sounds while breathing due to tight airways), weakness, fast heartbeat, hives, and paleness. Report these or any other unusual signs immediately to your child's health care provider.

How do I care for my child after immunization with PCV13?

  • Give your child an aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's health care provider.

Online Source: Immunization for Streptococcus Pneumoniae Infections in High-Risk Children, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide VIS
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014 Recommended Immunization for CHildren Birth Through 6
Online Source: Pneumococcal Vaccinations, CDC
Online Source: Pneumoccocal Disease--Q&A, CDC
Online Source: Pneumoccocal Disease In-Short, CDC
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Vaccination, Who Needs It?
Online Source: Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine: What You Need to Know, American Academy of Pediatrics
Online Editor: Metzger, Geri K.
Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 8/25/2014
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