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Sepsis Could it be sepsis?

Could this be Sepsis?

Sepsis happens when the body is fighting an infection but it starts to attack itself. Sepsis can damage the heart, blood vessels, lungs, kidneys and blood clotting systems, and can even cause death. The best chance of getting better from sepsis is to treat it quickly.

Sepsis can be caused by any infection (viral, fungal, bacterial), but most commonly occurs with bacterial infections of the lungs, urinary tract (bladder, urethra, kidneys), abdomen, skin and soft tissues.

Knowing if your child has sepsis can be challenging because many of the symptoms are like those we see in common infections which will get better with simple treatment and care.

You know your child best and we need you on our team. Trust your gut feeling if you feel your child is more unwell than ever before or this illness is different from other times – just ask your doctor or nurse “Could this be sepsis?”


Signs and symptoms

Sepsis is known as the ‘silent killer’ as its symptoms often mimic that of other, less serious illnesses such as flu or gastro, making it extremely hard to recognise.

Symptoms of sepsis can vary a lot between cases, which is why it’s vital to know what to look out for and when to seek help.

Any one of these symptoms may mean your child is critically unwell. Come to hospital straight away, even if you have already been to the doctor:

  • Fast breathing or long pauses in breathing
  • Blotchy, pale or blue skin
  • Feels abnormally cold to touch
  • Rash that doesn’t fade when pressed (glass test)
  • Drowsy or difficult to wake up or confused
  • Floppy
  • Fit or convulsion
  • A lot of pain or very restless

Download the factsheet below and tick the boxes of the signs and symptoms your child has, and ask your doctor or nurse “Could this be sepsis?”.

Concerned your child has sepsis?

What is the treatment?

Sepsis is curable if it is identified and treated quickly and, in most cases, will lead to a full recovery. Children with sepsis will require an initial stay in hospital. Treatment includes antibiotics to treat the infection and support of any organs that are not functioning well. This may include the need for some intravenous fluids and, in more severe cases, medications to support blood pressure and ventilation to support the lungs in the intensive care unit.

How to protect your child from sepsis

  • Talk to your healthcare professional about action you can take to prevent infections.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
  • If you suspect sepsis, seek medical treatment fast – the germs that cause sepsis can multiply rapidly.
  • Ask your health care professional ‘could this be sepsis?’
  • Early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis saves lives.
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