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:
Meningitis (infection of membranes that surround the brain)
Bacteremia (blood infection)
Onset of symptoms generally happens very quickly, meaning within 1 to 3 days following infection by the bacterium.
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.
Drink a lot of fluids: water, milk, juice, broth
Avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks. Given these drinks make you urinate, they increase loss of fluids
Use medication according to instructions
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.
Children and adolescents
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:
Deafness (becoming deaf)
Permanent brain damage
Pneumococcus is spread through airborne droplets from an infected person’s nose and throat.
Protection and prevention
Vaccination is the best way to be protected against pneumococcal infections.
The vaccines used vary according to a person’s age and health condition.