Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) factsheet


Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bacteria that causes a infection and serious illness that can be life-threatening in children.

It can cause conditions to develop very quickly like:

  • meningitis - inflammation of the brain
  • epiglottitis - inflammation of the windpipe
  • pneumonia – inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs.

Hib infection needs urgent medical attention. Immunisation has been effective in reducing the rates of Hib in Australia.

 Signs and symptoms

Hib bacteria can live in the nose and throat of most healthy children without causing illness. Hib is spread through person-to-person contact with droplets of fluid from an infected person's nose and throat.

Your child will become sick around 2 – 4 days after contact with Hib. A child with Hib is infectious for as long as the bacteria is in their nose and throat.

See your local doctor immediately if you think your child has symptoms of Hib, including:

  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • convulsions and/or seizures
  • severe drowsiness
  • difficulty waking up
  • loss of consciousness
  • difficulty breathing.


Other bacteria can cause similar infections, so it is important that your child’s doctor tests specifically for Hib. To diagnose Hib, your child's doctor may do tests including a:

  • physical examination
  • blood test
  • test of the fluid around the spine.

An emergency diagnosis of a life-threatening condition happens when there is a rapid onset of symptoms in a child, who was previously well.


Treatment can include antibiotics, sometimes given in hospital.

If your child has a Hib infection, they should be kept away from childcare and school until they have finished their course of antibiotics and their doctor has confirmed they are no longer infectious. Sometimes, people who live with a child who has a Hib infection will need preventative antibiotics.


Hib immunisation

Immunisation is the best protection against Hib infection. It is recommended for all infants, young children, and any person who is at risk of serious illness.

Vaccination for Hib is available under the National Immunisation Program Schedule. In NSW, the Hib vaccine is offered for free, for:

  • all babies at six weeks, four months and six months
    • the first three primary doses of Hib vaccine are given as part of a combined vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio and Hib vaccine (six-in-one vaccine)
  • all children at 18 months
    • a fourth booster dose of Hib vaccine
  • children from 18 months to 59 months, who have had no previous doses
    • a single catch-up dose
  • children up to age nine:
    • catch-up doses of the combined vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Hib vaccine).

A single dose of Hib vaccine is also recommended for any child who does not have a spleen or has a poorly functioning spleen and has not been previously immunised for Hib.

Children who have had a stem cell transplant should also be immunised against Hib and are recommended to have three doses of the vaccine.

Before immunisation, make sure you tell your child's doctor or nurse if they:

  • are unwell (temperature over 38.5°C)
  • have had a serious reaction to any vaccine in the past
  • have a severe allergy to anything
  • have had recent immunoglobulin or blood transfusion treatment
  • have a disease or treatment that causes low immunity.

Vaccines that protect against Hib and other infectious diseases are effective and safe. All medications can have some unwanted side effects. Side effects from these vaccines are uncommon and usually mild, but may include:

  • a faint, red rash
  • head cold, runny nose, cough or puffy eyes
  • pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
  • a small lump at the site of the injection that may last a few weeks
  • low-grade temperature
  • swelling of salivary glands
  • feeling unsettled, irritable, tearful, generally unhappy and drowsy.

To manage these side effects, you should:

  • give extra fluids to drink.
  • not overdress children or babies if they are hot
  • give paracetamol for any fever or soreness.
Last updated Friday 8th December 2023


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024