What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Potential side effects of the pneumonia vaccine include injection site soreness, irritability, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue and muscle aches.
Pneumonia is an infection caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Potential side effects of the pneumonia vaccine include injection site soreness, irritability, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue and muscle aches.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by common bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae). When these bacteria invade the lungs, they can cause pneumonia.Pneumonia can be serious — even deadly — especially for older people. Pneumonia often requires treatment in the hospital.

Pneumococcal disease causes thousands of infections every year in the United States. Though more common in children, it’s most likely to cause serious complications in adults. Fortunately, the pneumonia vaccine can help prevent pneumococcal disease from occurring at all.

What is the pneumonia vaccine?

The pneumonia vaccine is an injection that prevents you from contracting pneumococcal disease. There are two pneumococcal vaccines licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States:

  1. PCV13 — Prevnar 13®: This vaccine helps protect against the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that most commonly cause serious infections in children and adults. Doctors give this vaccine to children at 12 through 15 months, 2, 4, and 6 years old. Adults who need this vaccine get just one shot.
  2. PPSV23 — Pneumovax23®: This vaccine helps protect against serious infections caused by 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Doctors give a single shot of this vaccine to people who need it, but the CDC recommends one or two additional shots for people with certain chronic medical conditions.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the PCV13 vaccine for:

  • All children younger than 2 years old
  • People 2 years or older with certain medical conditions

The CDC recommends PPSV23 for:

  • All adults 65 years or older
  • People 2 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions
  • Smokers 19 through 64 years old

Signs of pneumonia vaccine side effects 

As with any vaccination, there are potential side effects of the pneumonia vaccination. Common side effects include: 

Injection site soreness

As with most shots and vaccinations, you may experience pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site (typically your upper arm).

Fever

Less than 1% of people who receive a pneumonia vaccine develop a fever. If your temperature is above 100.4 F (38.0 C), you have a fever. 

Irritability

Irritability is a feeling of agitation. When you're feeling irritable, you're more likely to become frustrated or upset. In children, this may present as fussiness. 

Loss of appetite

A loss or appetite might make you feel nauseous at the idea of eating food — or you might just not feel hungry. 

Fatigue/feeling tired

You may end up feeling lethargic or exhausted after the vaccination.

Headache

Common symptoms of headache include painful throbbing or pounding. The pain may be localized in one part of the face or skull, or felt around the whole head.

Muscle aches

The PPSV23 vaccine may cause muscle aches, but this symptom is only experienced in less than 1% of people.


 

Causes of pneumonia vaccine side effects

Many people experience pain at the injection site after getting the pneumonia vaccine. The pain you are experiencing is usually soreness of the muscle where the injection was given. Injection site pain and most other common side effects are actually a good sign; it indicates that your body is starting to build immunity against pneumococcal diseases.

More severe reactions to a pneumococcal vaccination means you are likely allergic to an ingredient in the vaccination. 

When to see the doctor for pneumonia vaccine side effects

Serious side effects after receiving the pneumonia vaccination are rare, but not impossible. Call your doctor if you experience the following:

Allergic reaction

Severe allergic reactions only occur in about one in a million shots. An allergic reaction to vaccinations typically happens within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the shot. Seek emergency medical attention at the first sign of an allergic reaction to the pneumonia vaccine. 

Feeling faint or dizzy

If you or your child feel dizzy, have vision changes or ringing in your ears, call your doctor.

Severe pain

Some people may experience severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving their arm after the pneumonia vaccine. Notify your doctor if this happens to you.


 

Treatments for pneumonia vaccine side effects

Side effects after receiving the pneumonia vaccine are usually mild. They typically resolve on their own within a few days. If you feel feverish, pain relievers and fever reducers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help.

If you experience any noticeable side effects, report them to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. In the rare event that the pneumonia vaccine causes a serious problem, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) may be able to offer financial help.

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What is viral pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in your lungs that is usually caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. About 30% of pneumonia cases reported in the United States are viral.

These viruses can transmit through the droplets of fluids in the air that are scattered after an infected person sneezes or coughs. These fluid drops may find their way into your body through your nose or mouth. You may get viral pneumonia after touching infected surfaces such as a doorknob or keyboard and then touching your mouth or nose.

What are the symptoms of viral pneumonia?

You must visit a pulmonologist/doctor soon if you have

What causes viral pneumonia?

There are various viruses that can lead to pneumonia.

How will the doctor diagnose my viral pneumonia?

Depending on the severity of your infection, your doctor will diagnose pneumonia.

If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may ask for

However, in older adults (≥65 years) or children, the doctor may ask to test a throat swab culture. Your doctor may also ask for a test in which a camera is put down in your throat to check the airways.

How will the doctor treat my viral pneumonia?

  • In a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help; therefore, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications.
  • Plenty of fluids and medicines to bring down fever and chest congestion may be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Depending on the microorganism causing the infection, you may receive antivirals such as Tamiflu to stop the spread of flu virus in your body.
  • If you have been diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) pneumonia, you may receive ribavirin to limit the spread of viruses.
  • It is important to get plenty of rest to get over this infection.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking cough or cold medicines, especially in the case of children.
  • Supplements such as vitamin C, zinc and B vitamins may help speed recovery.
  • After treatment, check your lungs to make sure they are all clear.
  • In severe cases if you have breathlessness, you may need to be hospitalized for oxygen therapy and intravenous fluid therapy. If it gets worse, you may require a ventilator.

How can I prevent viral pneumonia?

To prevent the transmission of pneumonia, you must

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. In public places, use sanitizers to disinfect your hands before eating anything.
  • Get a flu vaccine at the beginning of winter or the rainy season to protect you from certain strains of viruses.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick and who are coughing and sneezing.
  • Use a mask to prevent infected droplets from entering your body.
  • Do not touch your eyes, ears, nose and mouth when outside.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/1/2022
References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Pneumococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know."

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases: "Pneumococcal Disease."

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Vaccine Side Effects."

Medscape Medical Reference

NIH