Find out more about the whooping cough vaccine and other vaccines offered to pregnant women and babies

Children and adults without a fully working spleen (Asplenia)

Some people are born without a spleen, or their spleen doesn’t work properly. Some people have their spleen removed (splenectomy).

People without a fully working spleen are at increased risk of some life-threatening infections.

What does the spleen do?

The spleen helps to protect the body against infections caused by bacteria. If you don’t have a spleen you’ll still be able to cope with most infections but, in some cases, serious infection may develop quickly. The risk of this happening is higher in children than in adults, though still very small. Let your child’s school know if they’re affected.

More about spleen problems and spleen removal

Which vaccines do I need?

Make sure you’ve had all of your routine immunisations. People without a fully working spleen should also have the following extra immunisations when offered:

The flu vaccine helps reduce your risk of developing complications if you do catch flu. Speak to your GP, practice nurse or health visitor so they can check what you need.

What should I do if I plan to travel?

When travelling you’re at increased risk of getting certain infections or becoming more unwell if you get them, including malaria and diseases that you can catch from ticks or animal bites.

People without a working spleen are at risk of overwhelming infections including:

  • pneumonia
  • septicaemia (blood poisoning)
  • meningitis

If you’re going abroad:

  • get specialist advice from a travel health professional before your trip (at least 6 to 8 weeks before you leave) – extra vaccines and additional precautions may be necessary
  • destinations with malaria are particularly risky – you’ll always need special advice on this
  • ensure that your travel insurance covers all of your (or your child’s) health needs, including problems with your spleen
  • it’s recommended to carry a course of antibiotics with you, and take as directed by your (or your child’s) health professional
  • if you (or your child) become ill whilst abroad, get medical advice quickly – always make health professionals aware of your (or your child’s) condition
  • you’re at greater risk from diseases carried by ticks, so avoid being bitten (use insect repellents and wear appropriate clothing)
  • if you get bitten by an animal, particularly a dog, start your course of recommended antibiotics and seek medical advice urgently

Find contact details of local vaccination services.

Read more information on health risks while travelling abroad.

Asplenia alert card

Make sure you complete the alert card and carry it with you at all times. Always make paramedics and other health professionals aware of your (or your child’s) condition in case of illness.

Asplenia alert card

Further information and other

Read Public Health Scotland’s guide for people without a working spleen

If you need the leaflet in an alternative format such as easy read, large print, braille, or in other languages, please contact Public Health Scotland publications at
phs.otherformats@phs.scot

Last updated:
17 July 2024