What are the symptoms of pneumococcal disease?

The signs and symptoms of pneumococcal infection depend on the severity of the infection, the type of infection a person has, and which part of the body it affects.

If a doctor suspects a pneumococcal infection, they will test for the presence of the Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumonia) bacteria.

If these bacteria are present, the person may have a pneumococcal infection.

Some infections go away without treatment, but some people will need antibiotics and possibly hospitalization. For this reason, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of pneumococcal disease.

Non-specific symptoms

Fever is a symptom of pneumococcal disease.

The signs and symptoms of pneumococcal disease may be non-specific. This means they can occur with any pneumococcal infection.

The most common ones include:

a fever



aches and pains

a headache

malaise, or generally feeling unwell

These symptoms can appear in the early stages of an infection. They will often go away with over-the-counter medication.

Anyone who has concerns about symptoms should see a doctor. Getting treatment in the early stages can prevent complications from developing.

Possible complications of pneumococcal disease include:





otitis media

Usually, the bacteria stay in the nose and upper respiratory tract. Sometimes they can spread to other parts of the body and lead to severe complications.

These complications are more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system, including those with existing health conditions, people who are taking medications following a transplant, and those receiving cancer treatment.

Pneumococcal pneumonia

If you have a cough that produces green mucus, you should seek medical help.

This is a severe type of lung disease that can be life-threatening. It can occur if pneumococcal bacteria spread to the lungs.

Symptoms include:

a cough

a fever

chest pain

confusion and reduced awareness

breathing problems, such as shortness of breath and rapid breathing

The person may also experience:



a headache

fatigue (tiredness)

muscle aches


Sepsis is a severe and life-threatening inflammatory response that can result from an untreated infection.

Symptoms include:

confusion or disorientation, known as altered mental status

difficulty breathing

a rapid heart rate

fever, shivering, or chills

clammy skin

severe body pains

severe discomfort

Pneumococcal bacteremia

This is a blood infection that can be life-threatening in children and older people.

Symptoms include:

a fever

a headache

muscular aches and pains

a rapid heart rate

rapid breathing

Pneumococcal meningitis

This can develop if the infection spreads to the meninges, the layer of tissue that surrounds the brain. It can be life-threatening, and a person who develops pneumococcal meningitis will usually need to spend time in the hospital.

Signs and symptoms may include:

a fever

a headache

nausea and vomiting

sensitivity to light




stiff neck


Without treatment, there is a higher risk of a coma. Meningitis can be fatal.

Pneumococcal acute otitis media

Another name for this condition is a middle-ear infection. It can affect anyone, but it is common in young children.

Earache Is a possible complication of pneumococcal disease.

Signs and symptoms include:

an earache

a red and swollen eardrum

ear discharge

a fever



temporary hearing loss


A middle ear infection is usually mild, but in some cases, it can lead to a burst eardrum, permanent hearing loss, or a more severe infection, such as meningitis.

If a child has frequent ear infections, the doctor may need to fit an ear tube, known as a grommet, to reduce the risk of complications.


If anyone shows signs of any of these infections, it is important to see a doctor, especially if the person has a higher risk, due to their age or another health condition.

The health authorities recommend vaccinations for those aged under 2 years or over 65 years, those who smoke cigarettes, and anyone with a health condition that increases the risk of them developing an infection.


At what point should you see a doctor if you have these symptoms?


Contact your primary care physician for evaluation any time you suspect a serious infection.

Signs and symptoms can include persistent fever, shaking chills, a cough that produces green mucus, severe neck stiffness, ongoing shortness of breath, or confusion that does not resolve.

You may require blood tests and antibiotics to help clear an infection and prevent it causing complications.

Daniel Murrell, MD
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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