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Reducing the danger of infection for children with spleen problems

Highlights
  • Call your child’s doctor right away if you notice any signs of an infection.
  • Even a low fever (less than 38.5°C) should be discussed with your doctor. 
  • You and your child’s doctor should develop a medical emergency plan.

The spleen is an organ in the abdomen that helps fight off certain severe infections. If your child has had his spleen removed, was born without a spleen or has a spleen that does not work well, he might have trouble fighting infections.

Certain vaccines and antibiotics help protect against some, but not all infections in children with spleen problems. .

Your doctor will know if your child should take antibiotics to prevent infection and for how long. Many children with spleen problems are on penicillin twice per day for years. This seems to be safe and to prevent serious infections.

What should you 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 a low fever (less than 38.5°C) should be discussed with your doctor. Serious illness can be hard to diagnose at first because it can come on slowly, but still be very dangerous to a child with spleen problems.

What else can you do?

  • 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.
  • You and your child’s doctor should develop a medical emergency plan. If you will not be able to get medical help right away (such as when you are travelling), your doctor should give you antibiotics to start if your child gets a fever.  However, you still need to get medical attention as soon as possible.
  • In addition to all routine childhood immunizations, your child should get the flu vaccine and may need some vaccines earlier than other children or vaccines that other children don’t need, such as the meningococcal vaccine ACYW135 and meningococcal vaccine 4CMenB. These vaccines are given to children at higher risk of getting meningococcal infections. Speak to your doctor for more information.
  • If your child gets a dog or cat bite, she should be started  on antibiotics even if the bite is not infected.
  • Talk to your doctor if your child will be travelling to an area where there is malaria.


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

Last Updated: May 2014