What is sepsis in children?

Sepsis in children is similar to sepsis in adults. It generally occurs due to bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites (or their substances), that become toxic in the bloodstream. Sepsis occurs when the inflammatory response the body produces against these infections takes over the entire body. This response can be mild to severe, and can lead to actual "septic shock". Septic shock occurs when there is not enough oxygen to vital organs and these organs begin to fail. 

Generalized sepsis symptoms in infants and children include a temperature greater than 100.5F degrees or less than 96.8F degrees, increased heart rate, increased work of breathing, lethargy and/or confusion. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Other symptoms may include poor appetite and a decrease in urine output (wet diapers). In the newly born, any appearance of a fever requires immediate medical attention. 

Risk factors for pediatric sepsis include, but are not limited to:

  • Neonates/ newly born
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Autoimmune disease (HIV/AIDS, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes)
  • Sickle Cell Disease 
  • Children with implanted/prosthetic devices 

Prevention of sepsis in neonates includes maternal GBS swab testing and subsequent antibiotics during labor. In children, prevention includes vaccination and proper handwashing. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.