Treating children with spleen problems

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Treating children with spleen problems

The spleen is an organ in the abdomen that helps fight off certain severe infections. If your child’s spleen is missing, he might have trouble fighting infections. This handout will be helpful for parents of children:

  • whose spleens have been removed.
  • who were born without a spleen.
  • whose spleens do not work properly.

Certain vaccines and antibiotics help protect against some—but not all--spleen problems or infections.

What should parents watch for?

Call your child’s doctor right away if you notice any signs of an infection such as:

  • fever,
  • aches,
  • chills,
  • cough,
  • sore throat,
  • vomiting, or
  • headache.

Even minor symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, sore throat and/or a low grade fever that is less than 38.5°C should be discussed with your doctor. Serious illness can be hard to diagnose at first because it might come on slowly, but it can still be very dangerous to your child.

Your doctor will decide if your child should take antibiotics to prevent infection and for how long.

How can parents be prepared?

If your child has had her spleen removed (splenectomy) or has a spleen that doesn’t work right, she should always wear a MedicAlert bracelet. The bracelet should include information about her condition and any special treatment instructions.

Work with your doctor to establish a medical emergency plan. When you are travelling, always have a supply of penicillin (an antibiotic) for your child (or another drug your doctor prescribes, if your child is allergic to penicillin or other antibiotics).

If your child develops a fever and you can’t get medical help right away, he should start to take the medication right away. Get medical attention as soon as possible.

In addition to routine childhood immunizations, your child needs other vaccinations. Speak to your doctor for more information.

Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee

Last updated: June 2010