Sepsis (Pediatric)

What is sepsis?

This term refers to an infection in the blood that spreads throughout the body. It can be caused by microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Sepsis can develop in an infant during pregnancy, from contact with the mother’s genital tract during labor and delivery, or from exposure to microorganisms after birth.

Newborn infants are at risk due to their immature and often weakened immune systems. Sepsis can be a life threatening condition, affecting many body systems. It can also be difficult to diagnose since newborns often don’t have the same, easily recognizable symptoms as older children.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

Newborns with sepsis are often listless, do not feed well, and have low body temperatures. Other signs may include interrupted breathing (apnea), fever, pale skin tone and poor skin circulation, cool extremities, abdominal swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, jitteriness, and jaundice.

How is sepsis diagnosed?

When doctors think that a baby may have an infection, blood tests are ordered, and when necessary, intravenous antibiotics are given. Sometimes doctors will test urine and spinal fluid, to see if the infection has spread to other areas of the body. Testing will also help to determine the most effective antibiotic.

How is sepsis treated?

When sepsis is suspected, it is treated right away with antibiotics administered intravenously (through an IV) to fight the infection. Babies might also receive IV fluids to keep them hydrated, blood pressure medication to keep their hearts working properly, and for a while, some may need the help of respirators to breathe.