Pneumococcus is a bacterium found in the respiratory tract. Many people carry the bacteria in their nose or throat without becoming ill. However, pneumococcus can sometimes cause infections, like pneumonia, for instance.
There are many types of pneumococcus. About forty of them cause infections in humans. They are called ‘pneumococcal infections’.
Pneumococcal infections are common in Québec. They occur throughout the year, but especially in winter and spring. Each year, serious pneumococcal infections cause 3,000 to 6,000 hospitalisations and many deaths.
Symptoms of pneumococcal infections and their seriousness may vary with a person’s age, health and type of infection.
The types of infections are the following:
Onset of symptoms generally happens very quickly, meaning within 1 to 3 days following infection by the bacterium.
Pneumococcal infections can also lead to complications.
You should consult a doctor the same day if you have one of the following symptoms:
You should go to emergency immediately if you have one of the following symptoms:
If your child has fever and appears very sick, has no energy and refuses to play, take them to see a doctor quickly.
If you require immediate assistance to get to emergency, dial 9-1-1.
Most pneumococcal infections can be treated with antibiotics.
You can relieve symptoms of pneumococcal infections through the following measures:
If you have fever, your body naturally loses a lot of fluids, especially through sweating. Therefore, it is important to drink a lot and often.
To relieve fever and pain, you can take over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen, Tylenol® for example, and ibuprophen, Advil® for example.
Avoid taking medication that includes identical ingredients at the same time. For instance, do not take Tylenol® and Tylenol® Sinus together because both medicines contain acetaminophen.
Take your antibiotics as prescribed. Do not stop treatment before the end.
If your child is over 3 months old and has fever, you can give them acetaminophen, Tylenol® for example. Make sure you follow instructions supplied with the product and according to your child’s weight.
Avoid giving children and adolescents acetylsalicylic acid such as aspirin. In children and adolescents, such medication can lead to a serious illness of the brain and liver called ‘Reye's syndrome’.
Some pneumococcal infections can leave permanent scars including:
Pneumococcus is spread through airborne droplets from an infected person’s nose and throat.
Vaccination is the best way to be protected against pneumococcal infections.
The vaccines used vary according to a person’s age and health condition.
According to the recommended immunisation schedule, children can receive the vaccine from the age of 2 months.
The pneumococcus vaccine can be administered at any moment in the year.
People at risk can receive the vaccine for free under the Québec Immunisation Program.
See the Québec Immunisation Program page to know the procedure for getting vaccinated.
The following people are more at risk of catching a pneumococcal infection:
Pneumococcal infection is a reportable disease in Québec.
When laboratory staff and health professionals detect a case of pneumococcal infection, they must inform public health authorities.
Last update: June 25, 2015 10:38 AM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1 or see a health professional.