Children and adults without a 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:

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 advice from your GP, practice nurse or travel clinic with plenty of time before your trip (6–8 weeks).
  • carry a course of antibiotics with you
  • get medical advice quickly if you become ill
  • avoid being bitten as you're at greater risk from diseases passed by ticks - animal bites (especially from a dog) should be treated urgently
  • ensure that your travel insurance covers your health needs

Destinations with malaria are particularly risky and you'll need special advice on this - extra vaccines and additional precautions may be necessary.

More information on travel vaccines

Medical ID card

After completing the details for yourself or your young child, please carry a medical ID card with you at all times so that paramedics and other health professionals are aware of you or your child’s condition in case of illness.