Preventing pneumococcal infections

You can helpprevent the spread of a pneumococcal infection by taking some simple hygiene precautions.

These include:

  • washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, particularly after touching your nose and mouth, and before handling food
  • coughing and sneezing into a tissue, throwing it away immediately and washing your hands
  • not sharing cups or kitchen utensils with others

Pneumococcal vaccination

Pneumococcal vaccinationis very effective at preventing pneumococcal infections.

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccination one for children, known as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and one for adults, known as pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV).


All children are offered pneumococcal vaccination as part of the NHS childhood immunisation schedule .

They have three injections, which are usually given at:

  • eight weeks
  • 16 weeks
  • one year of age

Thepneumococcal vaccination for childrenis entirely safe, although around one childin 10 will have some redness and swelling at the site of the injection, and symptoms of a mild fever. However, these side effects will pass quickly.

Speak to your GP or health visitor if you are not sure whether your child has received their pneumococcal vaccination.


Adults canhave the pneumococcal vaccine or "pneumo jab" on the NHSif theyare in ahigh-risk group for developing a pneumococcal infection.

Ifthey don't,contact your GP to arrange an appointment.

Healthy adults usually only need one dose of the pneumo jab. However, if you have aweakened immune system or spleen disorder, may need additional booster doses. Your GP can advise you about this.

After you've had thepneumo jab, you may experience some pain and inflammation at the site of the injection. This should last no longer than three days. Less commonly, some people report the symptoms of a mild fever. Again, this should pass quickly.

For men, the recommended daily amount of alcohol consumption is threetofour units. For women, it'stwo tothree units. A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager, a small glass of wine or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.

Speak to your GP if you're finding it difficult to moderate your alcohol consumption. Counselling and medication are available for people with an alcohol misuse problem.

Read about alcohol and Alcohol misuse for more information and advice.


Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for developing an invasive pneumococcal infection in otherwise healthy adults.

Research has found that almost 60% of previously healthy people who develop an invasive pneumococcal infection are smokers.

It's not known exactly why smoking makes a person more vulnerable to an invasive pneumococcal infection. One theory is that the chemicals contained in tobacco smoke disrupt the normal workings of the immune system and make it less efficient.

As well as reducing your risk of developing an invasive pneumococcal infection, giving up smoking will help reduce your risk of developing other serious health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

If you want to give up smoking, a good first step is to see your GP. They will be able to provide help and advice about quitting, and can also refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking support service.

These services offer the most effective support for people who want to give up smoking. Studies show you are four times more likely to successfully give up smoking if you do it with the help of the NHS.

For more information, call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline on0300 123 1044 (England only).

  • getting help to stop smoking
  • Content supplied by the NHS Website

    Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 20 Jun 2016