Symptoms of pneumococcal infections

If you have a pneumococcal infection, your symptoms will vary depending on the type of infection you have.

Some common symptoms include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
  • chills
  • sweats
  • aches and pains
  • headache
  • a general sense of feeling unwell

When to seek medical advice

You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you:

  • have a constant high temperature that lasts for more than three days
  • cough up mucus streaked with blood
  • develop rapid breathing (more than 30 breaths a minute) or chest pains
  • become drowsy or confused
  • experience shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties

You should also contact your GP as soon as possible if your child is:

  • under three months of age and has a temperature of 38°C or above
  • between three and six months of age and has a temperature of 39°C or above
  • over two years of age and their symptoms persist for more than three days

You should also see your GP if you have any of the risk factors that make you more vulnerable to developing a pneumococcal infection.

Read about causes of pneumococcal infections for more information about these risk factors.

When to seek emergency medical advice

The most serious type of pneumococcal infection is bacterial meningitis, which requires immediate admission to hospital for emergency treatment.

Bacterial meningitis has a number of early warning signs that can occur earlier than the other symptoms.

These are:

  • pain in the muscles, joints or limbs, such as in the legs or hands
  • shivering or unusually cold hands and feet
  • blue lips and pale or blotchy skin

As the condition gets worse it may cause:

  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • seizures or fits
  • an inability to tolerate bright lights, known as photophobia (less common in young children)
  • a stiff neck (also less common in young children)
  • a rapid breathing rate
  • a blotchy, red rash that does not fade or change colour when you place a glass against it

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are different in babies and young children. Possible symptoms include:

  • becoming floppy and unresponsive or stiff with jerky movements
  • becoming irritable and not wanting to be held
  • unusual crying

You should dial 999 immediately to request an ambulance if you suspect that you or someone you know has bacterial meningitis.

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