Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine: Care Instructions

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The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) can prevent some of the serious complications of pneumonia. This includes infection in the bloodstream (bacteremia) or throughout the body (septicemia).

PPSV23 is recommended for people ages 65 years and older. People ages 2 to 64 who have a long-term illness should also get the vaccine. This includes people with diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, or lung disease. PPSV23 can also help people who have a weakened immune system. This includes cancer patients and people who don't have a spleen. The immune system helps your body fight infection and other illnesses.

PPSV23 is given as a shot. It's usually given in the arm. Healthy older adults get the shot once. Other people may need to have a second dose. The shot may cause pain and redness at the site. It may also cause a mild fever for a short time.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), if your arm is sore after the shot. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to your child for pain or fussiness after the shot. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over the body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • You have a high fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.