Pneumococcus and children: what it is, what it can cause and symptoms

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Penumococcus and children: causes, symptoms and treatments

Lo pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae) is a bacterium that can easily be found in airways of children and adults. Very often it stays there without causing any disease, or causes upper respiratory infections such as otitis, sinusitis or even bronchitis. This bacterium is among the most common causes of acute otitis media and sinusitis in children and for this reason it is essential to undergo vaccination. Let's see the causes, symptoms and treatments of pneumococcus in children.


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In this article

  • What is pneumococcus 
  • Pneumococcus: how it is transmitted 
  • Pneumococcus: symptoms
  • Why can pneumococcal infections be dangerous? 
  • Pneumococcus: how to cure it
  • Pneumococcal prevention: the vaccine
  • Does the pneumococcal vaccine have any side effects? 
  • What to do to prevent pneumococcal infection in a baby?
Read also: Pneumococcal vaccine

What is pneumococcus

Streptococcus pneumoniae, commonly called pneumococcus, is a bacterium of which they recognize themselves over 90 serotypes of pneumococcus, some harmless, others instead that frequently cause disease.
This bacterium is generally found in the throat or nose without giving any symptoms. It can also cause minor illnesses, such as otitis, sinusitis, bronchitis. Less frequently it can invade the lungs, blood or reach the meninges and be responsible for meningitispneumonia or infections that spread throughout the body (sepsis).
Pneumococcus is responsible for about one third of all acute otitis media and many sinus infections in children - particularly under the age of five and especially under the age of five. two years

Pneumococcus: how it is transmitted

Pneumococci are transmitted from sick people or healthy carriers, usually through the air, with droplets of saliva being emitted, for example, with coughing or sneezing.  
Especially in winter and early spring, pneumococcus is commonly found in the human respiratory tract without causing any disease. When the immune defenses are weakened, the bacterium can also spread to other areas of the body by generating one immune response manifested by the symptoms of the disease. 
Le viral infections of the upper respiratory tract, like the flu, predispose to pneumococcal infection. Pneumococcal infections occur mainly in the winter when respiratory diseases are more common. The incubation period varies depending on the type of infection and can last from 1 to 3 days.

Also Read: 15 Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Pneumococcus: symptoms

The most exposed subjects to infections from pneumococcus are children in the first 2 years of life in which the bacterium frequently causes middle ear otitis and pneumonia.

La pneumonia it is the most frequent severe pneumococcal infection. It consists of aacute inflammation of one or more lung lobes which are invaded by bacteria and filled with inflammatory fluid. For this reason, the lungs no longer allow normal breathing, a condition that often constitutes a clinical emergency and therefore requires adequate and early antibiotic treatment. Pneumococci cause about half of all cases of acute otitis media of infants (after the neonatal period) and gods children.

Pneumococci can provoke sinus infections and are one of the most frequent causes of acute purulent meningitis in all ages. There meningitis it is a severe inflammation of the membranes that line the brain, which normally protect it and keep it physically separate from all other structures of the skull. Meningitis represents the most serious clinical picture linked to pneumococcal infections in children of the first years of life: it is for this reason the pneumococcal vaccination it is practiced already in the first year of life.

Other symptoms ofpneumococcal infection may include:

  • Weakness
  • Threw up
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing or fast, labored breathing
  • Bluish or gray color of the skin, lips or nails
Read also: Vaccines: the new Aifa report confirms its safety

Why can pneumococcal infections be dangerous?

Because these infections can give rise to very serious diseases such as meningitis, which can also progress to sepsi, a highly lethal condition characterized by the disseminated invasion of bacteria into the blood, with impairment of the function of many organs.

Pneumococcus: how to cure it

The primary therapy for most pneumococcal infections is the penicillin G or one of its analogues, unless the isolated strain is resistant. Unfortunately, i have become frequent all over the world strains highly resistant to penicillin, ampicillin and other beta-lactams, for this reason the best solution is prevention through vaccination.

Read also: Postponement of vaccinations: when is it necessary?

Pneumococcal prevention: the vaccine

there two types of vaccine against pneumococcus, both multipurpose that is able to protect against numerous strains responsible for invasive diseases:

  • il 13-valent vaccine, specific against 13 types of pneumococcus and particularly indicated for infants and children under five.
  • il 23-valent vaccine, specific against 23 types of pneumococcus but indicated for older children and adults. In fact, due to the way it is built, this vaccine is not effective in stimulating the immunitary defense of younger children.

In Del Paese at this time this vaccination is not mandatory but highly recommended registered mail. The vaccination schedule provides three doses in the first year of life, in conjunction with hexavalent vaccination: at three months, five months and 11 months of age. Further vaccination is indicated after the age of 64.

Does the pneumococcal vaccine have any side effects?

The pneumococcal vaccine is very safe and effective in preventing pneumococcal infection. Like any other drug, however, this vaccine can also have it side effects.

The studies carried out show that most of the adverse reactions to the vaccine are modest and in particular

  • fever (even very high, above 39.5 ° C),
  • redness and swelling of the puncture site,
  • irritability and nervousness,
  • drowsiness
  • and temporary loss of appetite.

More serious effects, like one allergic reaction, a much rarer gift.

Read also: Meningitis and children: symptoms, precautions and vaccines for prevention

What to do to prevent pneumococcal infection in a baby?

To increase the chances that your baby won't contract pneumococcus:

  • Get vaccinations following the vaccination schedule
  • Wash your hands often and your child's hands to prevent the spread of germs
  • Don't let your child share cups or utensils
  • Wash regularly and disinfects objects of common use like the phone, toys, doorknobs and refrigerator handles
  • Avoid smoking. Studies have shown that children who breathe in cigarette smoke, even for short periods, get sick more often and are more susceptible to pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, asthma and otitis.

Other sources for this article:

WebMD: What is pneumococcal disease? 

BabyCenter: Pneumonia in babies 

Infant Jesus Hospital: Lo Pneumococco 

Questions and answers

Are pneumococcal infections more common in children?

Children under the age of 5 and even more so those under the age of 2, as well as the elderly, are more likely to get sick from pneumococcal infections.

Pneumococcus: Who is the vaccine recommended for?

The pneumococcal vaccine is indicated for infants and children up to 5 years of age, as well as for older children and adults with certain risk conditions.  

Pneumococcus: who shouldn't be vaccinated?

Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or who has a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

  • pneumococcal vaccine
  • bronchitis
  • otitis
  • sinusitis
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