Common questions about pneumonia

What is pneumonia (pneumococcal disease)?

Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can lead to four serious diseases that can cause long-term impacts like deafness and brain damage. These four diseases are: pneumonia, meningitis, blood infection and middle-ear infection.

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What causes pneumonia?

Pneumonia (pneumococcal disease) is caused by bacteria that can lead to potentially deadly infections including pneumonia, meningitis, blood infections and middle-ear infections. Pneumonia can be easily spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and also through direct contact with an infected person. Your child can also get infected simply by coming into contact with items an infected person has handled.

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What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can impact different parts of the body. Symptoms of the different infections depend on the site of infection. While each infection has unique symptoms, all infections will cause a fever, fussiness and a loss of appetite in children. Additionally:

Symptoms of pneumonia (lung infection) include:

  • fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • a cough with rust or green-coloured phlegm (mucus)
  • chills
  • teeth chattering
  • chest pain
  • fast breathing and heartbeat
  • bluish lips and fingernails from lack of oxygen in the blood
  • feeling confused or strange
  • feeling very tired

Symptoms of meningitis (infection causing inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord) include:

  • stiff neck
  • sudden fever drowsiness
  • irritability or fussiness
  • intense headache
  • vomiting
  • a skin rash that spreads rapidly and begins as reddish/purplish spots that don't disappear when pressed

If your child has any of these symptoms, get him or her to a doctor immediately.

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What can happen to my child if he or she gets pneumonia?

Sadly, the disease is quite serious for infants and young children. In fact, for every 20 children who get sick with pneumococcal disease, up to five will die. Infections caused by pneumococcal disease can also cause lifelong damage to the brain, the ears and major organs.

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Is there a treatment or cure for pneumonia?

Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics; however, it is important to get treatment for pneumococcal infections very quickly, to slow progression of the disease.

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What is the name of the immunization that includes protection against pneumonia?

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is the vaccine that will prompt your child’s immune system to build antibodies – or “armour” – that will protect your child from pneumonia.

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At what age is it recommended that my child be immunized against pneumonia?

To be protected against pneumonia, your child needs multiple doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, at the ages and stages recommended in the routine schedule. Your child is recommended to receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at two months of age, at four months of age, at six months of age, at 12 months of age and again between four and six years of age.

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Are there side effects to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine?

Side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine are usually very mild, and temporary. Your child may have a slight fever, be fussy, sleepier or have less appetite than usual, and his or her arm or thigh might be a bit red or sore where the needle went in. These side effects are very common, usually happen about 12 to 24 hours after the immunization, and usually go away within a few days. For tips on managing symptoms following immunization, click here.

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Is this disease called any other names?

Pneumococcal disease causes an infection of the lungs that is commonly called pneumonia.

Pneumococcal disease can also cause infections of other parts of the body as well. These are not called pneumonia.

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